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Full text of "Septimius Felton; or, The elixir of life"

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HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY, 
Boston and New York. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON 



The Elixir of Life 



BY/ 

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE 




BOSTON 

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

New York: 11 East Seventeenth S+reet 






35628 



Copyright, 187 1, 
By JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO. 
Copyright, 1899, 
By rose HAWTHORNE LATHROP. 



A// rights reserved. 







JUN2J1899 I 



The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A. 
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co. 






PEEPACE. 




HE following story is the last written by my 
father. It is printed as it was found among his 
manuscripts. I believe it is a striking speci' 
men of the peculiarities and charm of his style, and 
that it will have an added interest for brother artists, 
and for those who care to study the method of his com- 
position, from the mere fact of its not having received 
his final revision. In any case, I feel sure that the 
retention of the passages within brackets (e. g. p. 33). 
which show how my father intended to amplify some 
of the descriptions and develop more fully one or two 
of the character studies, will not be regretted by ap- 
preciative readers. My earnest thanks are due to Mr. 
Robert Browning for his kind assistance and advic^ 
in interpreting the manuscript, otherwise so difficult 
to me. 

UNA HAWTHORNE. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTOI^; 

Or, the elixir of life, 




T was a day in early spring ; and as that sweet, 
genial time of year and atmosphere calls out 
tender greenness from the ground, — beautiful 
flowers, or leaves that look beautiful because so long un- 
seen under the snow and decay, — so the pleasant air 
and warmth had called out three young people, who sat 
on a sunny hillside enjoying the warm day and one an- 
other. For they were all friends : two of them young 
men, and playmates from boyhood ; the third, a girl who, 
two or three years younger than themselves, had been the 
object of their boy-love, their little rustic, childish gallan- 
tries, their budding affections ; until, growing all towards 
manhood and womanhood, they had ceased to talk about 
such matters, perhaps thinking about them the more. 

Tliese three young people were neighbors' children, 
dwelling in houses that stood by the side of the great 
Lexington road, along a ridgy hill that rose abruptly 
behind them, its brow covered with a wood, and which 



8 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

stretched, with one or two breaks and interruptions, into 
the heart of the village of Concord, the county town. 
It was in the side of this hill that, according to tradition, 
the first settlers of the village had burrowed in caverns 
which they had dug out for their shelter, like swallows 
and woodchucks. As its slope was towards the south, 
and its ridge and crowning woods defended them from 
the northern blasts and snow-drifts, it was an admirable 
situation for the fierce New England winter; and the 
temperature was milder, by several degrees, along this 
hillside than on the unprotected plains, or by the river, 
or in any other part of Concord. So that here, during 
the hundred years that had elapsed since the first settle- 
ment of the place, dwellings had successively risen close 
to the hill's foot, and the meadow that lay on the other 
side of the road — a fertile tract — had been cultivated ; 
and these three young people were the children's chil- 
dren's children of persons of respectability who had dwelt 
there, — Rose Garfield, in a small house, the site of which 
is still indicated by the cavity of a cellar, in which I this 
very past summer planted some sunflowers to thrust their 
great disks out from the hollow and allure the bee and 
the humming-bird ; Robert Hagburn, in a house of some- 
what more pretension, a hundred yards or so nearer to 
the village, standing back from the road in the broader 
space which the retreating hill, cloven by a gap in that 
place, afforded ; where some elms intervened between it 
and the road, offering a site which some person of a nat- 
ural taste for the gently picturesque had seized upon. 
Those same elms, or their successors, still flung a noble 
shade over the same old house, which the magic hand of 



SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 9 

Alcott has improved by the touch that throws grace, 
amiableness, and uatural beauty over scenes that have 
little preteusioii in themselves. 

Now, the other young man, Septimius Eelton, dwelt 
in a small wooden house, then, I suppose, of some score 
of years' staudiug, — a two-story house, gabled before, 
but with only two rooms on a floor, crowded upon by 
the hill behind, — a house of thick walls, as if the pro- 
jector had that sturdy feeling of permanence in hfe which 
incites people to make strong their earthly habitations, 
as if deluding themselves with the idea that they could 
still inhabit them ; in short, an ordinary dwelling of a 
well-to-do New England farmer, such as his race had 
been for two or three generations past, although there 
were traditions of ancestors who had led lives of thought 
and study, and possessed all the erudition that the uni- 
versities of England could bestow. Whether any natural 
turn for study had descended to Septimius from these 
worthies, or how his tendencies came to be different from 
those of his family, — who, within the memory of the 
neighborhood, had been content to sow and reap the rich 
field in front of their homestead, — so it was, that Septim- 
ius had early manifested a taste for study. By the kind 
aid of the good minister of the town he had been fitted 
for college ; had passed through Cambridge by means of 
what little money his father had left him and by his own 
exertions in school-keeping ; and was now a recently dec- 
orated baccalaureate, with, as was understood, a purpose 
to devote himself to the ministry, under the auspices of 
that reverend and good friend whose support and instruc- 
tion had already stood him in such stead. 
1* 



10 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

Now here were these young people, on that beautiful 
spring morning, sitting on the hillside, a pleasant specta- 
cle of fresh life, — pleasant, as if they had sprouted like 
green things under the influence of the wami sun. The 
girl was very pretty, a little freckled, a little tanned, but 
with a face that glimmered and gleamed with quick and 
cheerful expressions ; a slender form, not very large, 
with a quick grace in its movements ; sunny hair that had 
a tendency to curl, which she probably favored at such 
moments as her household occupation left her ; a sociable 
and pleasant child, as both of the young men evidently 
thought. Robert Hagburn, one might suppose, would 
have been the most to her taste ; a ruddy, burly young 
fellow, handsome, and free of manner, six feet high, fa- 
mous through the neighborhood for strength and athletic 
skill, the early promise of what was to be a man fit for 
all offices of active rural life, and to be, in mature age, 
the selectman, the deacon, the representative, the colonel. 
As for Septimius, let him alone a moment or two, and 
then they would see him, with his head bent down, 
brooding, brooding, his eyes fixed on some chip, some 
stone, some common plant, any commonest thing, as if it 
were the clew and index to some mystery ; and when, by 
chance startled out of these meditations, he lifted his 
eyes, there would be a kind of perplexity, a dissatisfied, 
foiled look in them, as if of his speculations he found no 
end. Such was now the case, while Robert and the girl 
were running on with a gay talk about a serious subject, 
so that, gay as it was, it was interspersed with little 
thrills of fear on the girl's part, of excitement on Rob- 
art's. Their talk was of public trouble. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 11 

"My grandfather says," said Rose Garfield, "that 
we shall never be able to stand against old England, 
because the men are a weaker race than he remembers 
in his day, — weaker than his father, who came from 
England, — and the women slighter still ; so that we 
are dwindling away, grandfather thinks ; only a little 
sprightlier, he says sometimes, looking at me." 

" Lighter, to be sure," said Robert Hagburn ; " there 
is the lightness of the Englishwomen compressed into 
little space. I have seen them and know. And as 
to the men. Rose, if they have lost one spark of courage 
and strength that their English forefathers brought from 
the old land, — lost any one good quality without having 
made it up by as good or better, — then, for my part, I 
don't want the breed to exist any longer. And this war, 
that they say is coming on, will be a good opportunity 
to test the matter. Septimius ! don't you think so ? " 

" Think what ? " asked Septimius, gravely, lifting up 
his head. 

" Think ! why, that your countrymen are worthy to 
live," said Robert Hagburn, impatiently. " Eor there is 
a question on that point." ^ 

" It is hardly worth answering or considering," said 
Septimius, looking at him thoughtfully. " We live so 
little while, that (always setting aside the effect on a 
future existence) it is little matter whether we live 
or no." 

" Little matter ! " said Rose, at first bewildered, then 
laughing, — " little matter ! when it is such a comfort to 
live, so pleasant, so sweet ! " 

"Yes, and so many things to do," said Robert; "to 



12 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

make fields yield produce ; to be busy among men, and 
happy among the women-folk ; to play, work, fight, and 
be active in many ways." 

"Yes J but so soon stilled, before your activity has 
come to any definite end," responded Septimius, gloom- 
ily. '* I doubt, if it had been left to my choice, whether 
I should have taken existence on such terms ; so much 
trouble of preparation to live, and then no life at all ; a 
ponderous beginning, and nothing more." 

" Do you find fault with Providence, Septimius ? " 
asked Rose, a feeling of solemnity coming over her 
cheerful and buoyant nature. Then she burst out 
a-laughing. " How grave he looks, Robert ; as if he 
had lived two or three lives already, and knew all about 
the value of it. But I think it was worth while to be 
born, if only for rhe sake of one such pleasant spring 
morning as this ; and God gives us many and better 
things when these are past." 

" We hope so," said Septimius, who was again look- 
ing on the ground. " But who knows ? " 

" I thought you knew," said Robert Hagburn. " You 
have been to college, and have learned, no doubt, a great 
many things. You are a student of theology, too, and 
have looked into these matters. Who should know, if 
not you ? " 

" Rose and you have just as good means of ascertain- 
ing these points as I," said Septimius ; " all the certainty 
that can be had lies on the surface, as it should, and 
equally accessible to every man o/ woman. If we try to 
grope deeper, we labor for naught, and get less wise 
while we try to be more so. If life were long enough to 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 13 

enable us thoroughly to sift these matters, then, indeed ! 
— but it is so short ! " 

"Always this same complaint," said K-obert. "Sep- 
timius, how long do you wish to live ? " 

" Forever ! " said Septimius. " It is none too long for 
all I wish to know." 

" Forever ? " exclaimed Rose, shivering doubtfully. 
" Ah, there would come many, many thoughts, and after 
a while we should want a little rest." 

" Forever ? " said Robert Hagburn. " And what 
would the people do who wish to fill our places ? You 
are unfair, Septimius. Live and let live ! Turn about ! 
Give me my seventy years, and let me go, — my seventy 
years of what this life has, — toil, enjoyment, suffering, 
struggle, fight, rest, — only let me have my share of 
what 's going, and I shall be content." 

"Content with leaving everything at odd ends; con-' 
tent with being nothing, as you were before ! " 

"No, Septimius, content with heaven at last," said 
Rose, who had come out of her laughing mood into a 
sweet seriousness. " dear ! think what a worn and 
ugly thing one of these fresh little blades of grass would 
seem if it were not to fade and wither in its time, after 
being green in its time." 

"Well, well, my pretty Rose," said Septimius apart, 
" an immortal weed is not very lovely to think of, that is 
true ; but I should be content with one thing, and that 
is yourself, if you were immortal, just as you are at 
seventeen, so fresh, so dewy, so red-hpped, so golden- 
haired, so gay, so frolicsome, so gentle." 

"But I am to grow old, and to be brown and wrin- 



14 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

kled, gray-liaired and ugly," said Rose, rather sadly, as 
she tlms enumerated the items of her decay, " and then 
you would think me all lost and gone. But still there 
might be youth underneath, for one that really loved me 
to see. Ah, Septimius Eelton ! such love as would see 
with ever-new eyes is the true love." And she ran away 
and left him suddenly, and Robert Hagburn departing at 
the same time, tliis little knot of three was dissolved, and 
Septimius went along the wayside wall, thoughtfully, as 
was his wont, to his own dwelling. He had stopped for 
some moments on the threshold, vaguely enjoying, it is 
probable, the light and warmth of the new spring day 
and the sweet air, which was somewhat unwonted to the 
young man, because he was accustomed to spend much 
of his day in thought and study within doors, and, in- 
deed, like most studious young men, was overfond of the 
fireside, and of making life as artificial as he could, by 
fireside heat and lamplight, in order to suit it to the arti- 
ficial, intellectual, and moral atmosphere which he derived 
from books, instead of living healthfully in the open air, 
and among his fellow-beings. Still he felt the pleasure of 
being warmed through by this natural heat, and though 
blinking a little from its superfluity, could not but confess 
an enjoyment and cheerfulness in this flood of morning 
light that came aslant the hillside. Wiiile he thus stood, 
he felt a friendly hand laid upon his shoulder, and look- 
ing up, there was the minister of the village, the old 
friend of Septimius, to whose advice and aid it was owing 
that Septimius had followed his instincts by going to col- 
lege, instead of spending a thwarted and dissatisfied life 
in the field that fronted tie house. He was a man of 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 15 

middle age, or little beyond, of a sagacious, kindly as- 
pect ; the experience, the lifelong, intimate acquaintance 
with many concerns of his people being more appar- 
ent in him than the scholarship for which he had been 
early distinguished. A tanned man, like one who labored 
in his own grounds occasionally ; a man of homely, plain 
address, which, when occasion called for it, he could 
readily exchange for the polished manner of one who had 
seen a more refined world than this about him. 

" Well, Septimius," said the minister, kindly, " have 
you yet come to any conclusion about the subject of 
which we have been talking ? " 

" Only so far, sir," replied Septimius, " that I find 
myself every day less inclined to take up the profession 
which I have had in view so many years. I do not think 
myself fit for the sacred desk." 

" Surely not ; no one is," replied the clergyman ; " but 
if I may trust my own judgment, you have at least many 
of the intellectual qualifications that should adapt you to 
it. There is something of the Puritan character in you, 
Septimius, derived from holy men among your ancestors ; 
as, for instance, a deep, brooding turn, such as befits 
that heavy brow ; a disposition to meditate on things 
hidden ; a turn for meditative inquiry ; — all these things, 
with grace to boot, mark you as the germ of a man who 
might do God service. Your reputation as a scholar 
stands high at college. You have not a turn for worldly 
business." 

"Ah, but, sir," said Septimius, casting down his heavy 
brows, " I lack something within." 

" Faith, perhaps," replied the minister ; " at least, you 
think so." 



16 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

" Cannot I know it ? " asked Septimius. 

" Scarcely, just now," said his friend. " Study for the 
ministry ; bind your thoughts to it ; pray ; ask a belief, 
and you will soon find you have it. Doubts may oc- 
casionally press in ; and it is so with every clergyman. 
But your prevailing mood will be faith." 

" It has seemed to me," observed Septimius, " that it 
is not the prevailing mood, the most common one, that is 
to be trusted. This is habit, formality, the shallow cov- 
ering which we close over what is real, and seldom suffer 
to be blown aside. But it is the snakelike doubt that 
thrusts out its head, which gives us a glimpse of reality. 
Surely such moments are a hundred times as real as the 
dull, quiet moments of faith, or what you call such." 

"I am sorry for you," said the minister; "yet to a 
youth of your frame of character, of your ability I will 
say, and your requisition for something profound in the 
grounds of your belief, it is not unusual to meet this 
trouble. Men like you have to fight for their faith. 
They fight in the first place to win it, and ever after- 
wards to hold it. The Devil tilts with them daily, and 
often seems to win." 

"Yes; but," replied Septimius, "he takes deadly 
weapons now. If he meet me with the cold pure steel 
of a spiritual argument, I might win or lose, and still 
not feel that all was lost; but he takes, as it were, a 
great clod of earth, massive rocks and mud, soil and 
dirt, and flings it at me overwhelmingly ; so that I am 
buried under it." 

"How is that?" said the minister. "Tell me more 
plainly." 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 17 

"May it not be possible," asked Septimius, " to have 
too profound a sense of the marvellous contrivance and 
adaptation of this material world to require or believe 
in anything spiritual ? How wonderful it is to see it 
all alive on this spring day, all growing, budding ! Do 
we exhaust it in our little life ? Not so ; not in a 
hundred or a thousand lives. The whole race of man, 
living from the beginning of time, have not, in all their 
number and multiplicity and in all their duration, come 
in the least to know the world they live in ! And how 
is this rich world thrown away upon us, because we 
live in it such a moment ! What mortal work has ever 
been done since the world began ! Because we have no 
time. No lesson is taught. We are snatched away from 
our study before we have learned the alphabet. As the 
world now exists, I confess it to you frankly, my dear 
pastor and instructor, it seems to me all a failure, be- 
cause we do not live long enough." 

"But the lesson is carried on in another state of 
being ! " 

"Not the lesson that we begin here," said Septimius. 
" We might as well train a child in a primeval forest, to 
teach him how to live in a European court. No, the 
fall of man, which Scripture tells us of, seems to me 
to have its operation in this grievous shortening of earth- 
ly existence, so that our life here at all is grown ridicu- 
lous." 

"Well, Septimius," replied the minister, sadly, yet 
not as one shocked by what he had never heard before, 
" I must leave you to struggle through this form of 
unbelief as best you may, knowing that it is by your 



18 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

own efforts that you must come to the other side of 
this slough. We will talk further another time. You 
are getting worn out, my young friend, with much 
study and anxiety. It were well for you to live more, 
for the present, in this earthly life that you prize so 
higlily. Cannot you interest yourself in the state of 
this country, in this coming strife, the voice of which 
now sounds so hoarsely and so near us ? Come out of 
your thoughts and breathe another air." 

" I will try," said Septimius. 

"Do," said the minister, extending his hand to him, 
" and in a little time you will find the change." 

He shook the young man's hand kindly, and took liis 
leave, while Septimius entered his house, and turning 
to the right sat down in his study, where, before the 
fireplace, stood the table with books and papers. On 
the shelves around the low-studded walls were more 
books, few in number but of an erudite appearance, 
many of them having descended to him from learned 
ancestors, and having been brought to light by himself 
after long lying in dusty closets ; works of good and 
learned divines, whose wisdom he had happened, by help 
of the Devil, to turn to mischief, reading them by the 
light of hell-fire. For, indeed, Septimius had but given 
the clergyman the merest partial glimpse of his state of 
mind. He was not a new beginner in doubt; but, on 
the contrary, it seemed to him as if he had never been 
other than a doubter and questioner, even in his boy- 
hood ; believing nothing, although a thin veil of rever- 
ence had kept him from questioning some things. And 
now the new, strange thought of the sufficiency of the 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 19 

world for man, if man were only suflficient for that, kept 
recurring to him ; and with it came a certain sense, 
which he had been conscious of before, that he, at least, 
might never die. The feeling was not peculiar to Sep- 
timius. It is an instinct, the meaning of which is mis- 
taken. We have strongly within us the sense of an 
undying principle, and we transfer that true sense to 
this life and to the body, instead of interpreting it justly 
as the promise of spiritual immortality. 

So Septimius looked up out of his thoughts, and said 
proudly : " Why should I die ? I cannot die, if worthy 
to live. What if I should say this moment that I will 
not die, not till ages hence, not till the world is ex- 
hausted ? Let other men die, if they choose or yield ; 
let him that is strong enough live ! " 

After this flush of heroic mood, however, the glow 
subsided, and poor Septimius spent the rest of the day, 
as was his wont, poring over his books, in which all 
the meanings seemed dead and mouldy, and like pressed 
leaves (some of which dropped out of the books as he 
opened them), brown, brittle, sapless; so even the 
thoughts, which when the writers had gathered them 
seemed to them so brightly colored and full of life. 
Then he began to see that there must have been some 
principle of life left out of the book, so that these gath- 
ered thoughts lacked something that had given them 
their only value. Then he suspected that the way truly 
to live and answer the pui-poses of life was not to gather 
up thoughts into books, where they grew so dry, but 
to live and still be going about, full of green wisdom, 
ripening ever, not in maxims cut and dry, but a wisdom 



20 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

ready for daily occasions, like a living fountain; and 
that to be this, it was necessary to exist long on earth, 
drink in all its lessons, and not to die on the attainment 
of some smattering of truth ; but to live all the more 
for that; and apply it to mankind and increase it 
thereby. 

Everything drifted towards the strong, strange eddy 
into which his mind had been drawn : all his thoughts 
set hitherward. 

So he sat brooding in his study until the shrill-voiced 
old woman — an aunt, who was his housekeeper and 
domestic ruler — called him to dinner, — a frugal din- 
ner, — and chided him for seeming inattentive to a disli 
of early dandelions which she had gathered for him ; 
but yet tempered her severity with respect for the fu- 
ture clerical rank of her nephew, and for his already 
being a bachelor of arts. The old woman's voice spoke 
outside of Septimius, rambling away, and he paying little 
heed, till at last dinner was over, and Septimius drew 
back his chair, about to leave the table. 

" Nephew Septimius," said the old woman, " you 
began this meal to-day without asking a blessing, you 
get up from it without giving thanks, and you soon to 
be a minister of the Word." 

" God bless the meat," replied Septimius (by way of 
blessing), "and make it strengthen us for the life he 
means us to bear. Thank God for our food," he added 
(by way of grace), " and may it become a portion in us 
of an immortal body." 

"That sounds good, Septimius," said the old lady. 
" Ah ! you '11 be a mighty man in the pulpit, and worthy 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 21 

to keep up the name of your great-grandfather, who, 
they say, made the leaves wither on a tree with the 
fierceness of his blast against a sin. Some say, to be 
sure, it was an early frost that helped him." 

" I never heard that before. Aunt Keziah," said Sep- 
timius. 

" I warrant you no," replied his aunt. " A man dies, 
and his greatness perishes as if it had never been, and 
people remember nothing of him only when they see his 
gravestone over his old dry bones, and say he was a good 
man in his day." 

" What truth there is in Aunt Keziah's words ! " 
exclaimed Septimius. "And how I hate the thought 
and anticipation of that contemptuous appreciation of 
a man after his death ! Every living man triumphs over 
every dead one, as he lies, poor and helpless, under the 
mould, a pinch of dust, a heap of bones, an evil odor ! 
I hate the thought ! It shall not be so ! " 

It was strange how every little incident thus brought 
him back to that one subject which was taking so strong 
hold of his mind ; every avenue led thitherward ; and he 
took it for an indication that nature had intended, by 
innumerable ways, to point out to us the great truth 
that death was an alien misfortune, a prodigy, a mon- 
strosity, into which man had only fallen by defect ; and 
that even now, if a man had a reasonable portion of his 
original strength in him, he might live forever and spurn 
death. 

Our story is an internal one, dealing as little as pos- 
sible with outward events, and taking hold of these only 
where it cannot be helped, in order by means of them to 



9,'Z SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

delineate the history of a mind bewildered in certain 
errors. We would not willingly, if we could, give a 
lively and picturesque surrounding to this delineation, 
but it is necessary that we should advert to the circum- 
stances of the time in which this inward history was 
passing. We will say, therefore, that that night there 
was a cry of alarm passing all through the succession of 
country towns and rural communities that lay around 
Boston, and dying away towards the coast and the 
wilder forest borders. Horsemen galloped past the line of 
farm-houses shouting alarm ! alarm ! There were stories 
of marching troops coming like dreams through the mid- 
night. Around the little rude meeting-houses there was 
here and there the beat of a drum, and the assemblage 
of farmers with their weapons. So all that night there 
was marching, there was mustering, there was trouble ; 
and, on the road from Boston, a steady march of sol- 
diers' feet onward, onward into the land whose last war- 
like disturbance had been when the red Indians trod it, 

Septimius heard it, and knew, like the rest, that it was 
the sound of coming war. " Fools that men are ! " said 
he, as he rose from bed and looked out at the misty stars ; 
"they do not live long enough to know the value and 
purport of life, else they would combine together to live 
long, instead of throwing away the lives of thousands as 
they do. And what matters a little tyranny in so short 
a life ? What matters a form of government for such 
ephemeral creatures ? " 

As morning brightened, these sounds, this clamor, ^ 
or something that was in the air and caused the clamor, 
■ — grew so loud that Septimius seemed to feel it even in 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 23 

his solitude. It was in the atmosphere, — storm, wild 
excitement, a coming deed. Men hurried along the usu- 
ally lonely road in groups, with weapons in their hands, 
— the old fowling-piece of seven-foot barrel, with which 
the Puritans had shot ducks on the river and Walden 
Pond ; the heavy harquebus, which perhaps had levelled 
one of King Philip's Indians ; the old King gun, that 
blazed away at the French of Louisburg or Quebec, — 
hunter, husbandman, all were hurrying each other. It 
was a good time, everybody felt, to be alive, a nearer kin- 
dred, a closer sympathy between man and man ; a sense 
of the goodness of the world, of the sacredness of coun- 
try, of the excellence of hfe ; and yet its slight account 
compared with any truth, any principle ; the weighing of 
the material and ethereal, and the finding the former not 
M^orth considering, when, nevertheless, it had so much to 
do with the settlement of the crisis. The ennobling of 
brute force ; the feeling that it had its godlike side ; the 
drawing of heroic breath amid the scenes of ordinary life, 
so that it seemed as if they had all been transfigured since 
yesterday. O, high, heroic, tremulous juncture, when 
man felt himself almost an angel ; on the verge of doing 
deeds that outwardly look so fiendish ! 0, strange rap- 
ture of the coming battle ! We know something of that 
time now; we that have seen the muster of the village 
soldiery on the meeting-house green, and at railway sta- 
tions ; and heard the drum . and fife, and seen the fare- 
wells ; seen the familiar faces that we hardly knew, now 
that we felt them to be heroes ; breathed higher breath 
for their sakes ; felt our eyes moistened ; thanked them 
in our souls for teaching us that nature is yet capable of 



24 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

heroic momeuts ; felt how a great impulse lifts up a peo- 
ple, and every cold, passionless, indifferent spectator, — 
lifts him up into religion, and makes him join in what 
becomes an act of devotion, a prayer, when perhaps he 
but half approves. 

Septimius could not study on a morning like this. He 
tried to say to himself that he had nothing to do with 
this excitement ; that his studious life kept him away 
from it ; that his intended profession was that of peace ; 
but say what he might to himself, there was a tremor, a 
bubbling impulse, a tingling in his ears, — the page that 
he opened glimmered and dazzled before him. 

" Septimius ! Septimius ! " cried Aunt Keziah, look- 
ing into the room, " in Heaven's name, arc you going to 
sit here to-day, and the redcoats coming to burn the 
liouse over our heads ? Must I sweep you out with the 
broomstick ? For shame, boy ! for shame ! " 

" Are they coming, then. Aunt Keziah ? " asked her 
nephew. " Well, I am not a fighting-man," 

" Certain they are. They have sacked Lexington, and 
slain the people, and burnt the meeting-house. That 
concerns even the parsons ; and you reckon yourself 
among them. Go out, go out, I say, and learn the 
news ! " 

Whether moved by these exhortations, or by his own 
stifled curiosity, Septimius did at length issue from his 
door, though with that reluctance which hampers and 
impedes men whose current of thought and interest runs 
apart from that of the world in general; but forth he 
came, feeling strangely, and yet with a strong impulse to 
fling himself headlong into the emotion of the moment. 



SEPTTMIUS FELTON. 2;J 

It was a beautiful morning, spring-like and summer-like 
at once. If there had been nothing else to do or think 
of, such a morning was enough for life only to breathe 
its air and be conscious of its inspiring influence. 

Septimius turned along the road towards the village, 
meaning to mingle with the crowd on the green, and 
there learn all he could of the rumors that vaguely filled 
the air, and doubtless were shaping themselves into vari- 
ous forms of fiction. 

As he passed the small dwelling of Rose Garfield, she 
stood on the doorstep, and bounded forth a little way to 
meet him, looking frightened, excited, and yet half 
pleased, but strangely pretty ; prettier than ever before, 
owing to some hasty adornment or other, that she would 
never have succeeded so well in giving to herself if she 
had had more time to do it in. 

" Septimius — Mr. Felton," cried she, asking informa- 
tion of him who, of all men in the neighborhood, knew 
nothing of the intelhgence afloat ; but it showed a certain 
importance that Septimius had with her. " Do you 
really think the redcoats are coming? Ah, M-liat shall 
we do ? What shall we do ? But you are not going to 
the village, too, and leave us all alone ? " 

" I know not whether they are coming or no. Rose," 
said Septimius, stopping to admire the young girl's fresh 
beauty, which made a double stroke upon him by her 
excitement, and, moreover, made her twice as free with 
him as ever she had been before; for there is notliing 
truer than that any breaking up of the ordinary state of 
things is apt to shake women out of their proprieties, 
break down barriers, and bring them into perilous prox- 
2 



20 SEPTIMIUS F ELTON. 

iiuity with the world. " Are you alone here ? Had you 
not better take shelter in the village ? " 

" And leave my poor, bedridden grandmother ! " cried 
Hose, angrily. " You know I can't, Septiniius. But I 
suppose I am in no danger. Go to the village, if you 
like." 

" Where is Robert Hagburn ? " asked Septimius. 

"Gone to the village this hour past, with his grand- 
father's old firelock on his shoulder," said Hose ; " he 
was running bullets before daylight." 

" Rose, I will stay with you," said Septiniius. 

" gracious, here they come, 1 'm sure ! " cried Rose. 
" Look yonder at the dust. Mercy ! a man at a gallop !" 

In fact, along the road, a considerable stretch of which 
was visible, they heard the clatter of hoofs and saw a lit- 
tle cloud of dust approaching at the rate of a gallop, and 
disclosing, as it drew near, a hatless countryman in his 
shirt-sleeves, who, bending over his horse's neck, applied 
a cart-whip lustily to the animal's flanks, so as to incite 
]iim to most unwonted speed. At the same time, glaring 
upon Rose and Septimius, he lifted up his voice and 
shouted in a strange, high tone, that communicated the 
iremor and excitement of the shouter to each auditor: 
" Alarum ! alarum ! alarum ! The redcoats ! The red- 
coats ! To arms ! alarum !" 

And trailing this sound far wavering behind him like a 
pennon, the eager horseman dashed onward to the village. 

" dear, what shall we do ? " cried Rose, her eyes full 
of tears, yet dancing with excitement. " They are com- 
* ij ! they are coming ! I hear the drum and fife." 

'I really believe they are," said Septimius, his cheek 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 'Zl 

flusliiiig niid growing pale, not with fear, but the inevita- 
ble tremor, half painful, half i)leasural)lc, of the moment, 
" Hark ! there was the shrill note of a fife. Yes, they are 
coming!" 

He tried to persuade Rose to hide herself in the house ; 
but that young person would not be persuaded to do so, 
clinging to Septimius in a way that flattered while it per- 
plexed him. Besides, with all the girl's fright, she had 
still a good deal of courage, and much curiosity too, to 
see what these redcoats were of whom she heard such 
terrible stories. 

" Well, well, Rose," said Septimius ; " I doubt not 
we may stay here without danger, — you, a woman, and 
I, whose profession is to be that of peace and good-will 
to all men. They cannot, whatever is said of them, be 
on an errand of massacre. We will stand here quietly ; 
and, seeing that we do not fear them, they will under- 
stand that we mean them no harnj." 

They stood, accordingly, a little in front of the door by 
the well-curb, and soon they saw a heavy cloud of dust, 
from amidst which shone bayonets ; and anon, a military 
band, which had hitherto been silent, struck up, with 
drum and fife, to which the tramp of a thousand feet fell 
in regular order; then came the column, moving mas- 
sively, and the redcoats who seemed somewhat wearied 
by a long night-march, dusty, with bedraggled gaiters, 
covered with sweat which had run down from their pow- 
dered locks. Nevertheless, these ruddy, lusty English- 
men marched stoutly, as men that needed only a half- 
hour's rest, a good breakfast, and a pot of beer apiece, to 
make them ready to face the world. Nor did their faces 



28 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

look anywise rancorous ; but at most, only heavy, clod- 
dish, good-natured, and humane. 

" heavens, Mr. Eelton ! " whispered Rose, " why 
should we shoot these men, or they us ? they look kind, 
if homely. Each of them has a mother and sisters, I 
suppose, just like our men." 

" It is the strangest thing in the world that we can 
think of killing them," said Septimius. "Human life 
is so precious." 

Just as they were passing the cottage, a halt was 
called by the commanding officer, in order that some 
little rest might get the troops into a better condition 
and give them breath before entering the village, w'here 
it was important to make as imposing a show as possi- 
ble. During this brief stop, some of the soldiers ap- 
proached the well-curb, near which Rose and Septimius 
were standing, and let down the bucket to satisfy their 
thirst. A young officer, a petulant boy, extremely hand- 
some, and of gay and buoyant deportment, also came up. 

*' Get me a cup, pretty one," said he, patting Rose's 
cheek with great freedom, though it was somewhat and 
indefinitely short of rudeness; "a mug, or something to 
drink out of, and you shall have a kiss for your pains." 

" Stand off, sir ! " said Septimius, fiercely ; " it is a 
coward's part to insult a woman." 

"I intend no insult in this," replied the handsome 
young officer, suddenly snatching a kiss from Rose, 
before she could draw back. " And if you think it so, 
my good friend, you had better take your weapon and 
get as much satisfaction as you can, shooting at me from 
behind a hedge." 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 29 

Before Septimius could reply or act, — and, in truth, 
tiie easy presumption of the young Englishman made it 
dllBcult for him, an inexperienced recluse as he was, to 
know what to do or say, — the drum beat a little tap, 
recalling the soldiers to their rank and to order. The 
yod/ig officer hastened back, with a laughing glance at 
Rose and a light, contemptuous look of defiance at Sep- 
timius, the drums rattling out iii full beat, and the troops 
marched on. 

"What impertinence!" said Hose, whose indignant 
color mtvde her look pretty enough almost to excuse the 
offence. 

It is not easy to see how Septimius could have 
shielded her from the insult ; and yet he felt incon- 
ceivably oui;raged and humiliated at the thought that 
this offence had occurred while Rose was under his 
protection, and he responsible for her. Besides, some- 
how or other, he was angry with her for having under- 
gone the wrong, though certainly most unreasonably ; 
for the whole thing was quicker done than said. 

" You had better go into the house now. Rose," said 
he, "and see to you.r bedridden grandmother." 

" And what will yju do, Septimius ? " asked she. 

" Perhaps I will house myself, also," he replied. 
" Perhaps take yonder proud redcuat's counsel, and 
shoot him behind a hedge." 

"But not kill him outright; I suppose he has a 
mother and a sweetheart, the handsome young officer," 
murmured Rose pityingly to herself. 

Septimius went into his house, and sat in his study for 
some hours, in that unpleasant state of feeling which a 



30 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

mail of brooding thought is apt to experience when the 
world around him is in a state of intense action, which 
he finds it impossible to sympathize with. There seemed 
to be a stream rushing past him, by which, even if he 
plunged into the midst of it, he could not be wet. He 
felt himself strangely ajar with the human race, and 
would have given much either to be in full accord with 
it, or to be separated from it forever. 

" I am dissevered from it. It is my doom to be only 
a spectator of life ; to look on as one apart from it. Is 
it not well, therefore, that, sharing none of its pleasures 
and happiness, I should be free of its fatalities, its brev- 
ity ? How cold I am now, while this whirlpool of public 
feeling is eddying around me! It is as if I had not been 
born of woman ! " 

Thus it was, that, drawing wild inferences from phe- 
nomena of the mind and heart common to people who, by 
some morbid action within themselves, are set ajar with 
the world, Septimius continued still to come round to 
that strange idea of undyingncss which had recently 
taken possession of him. And yet he was wrong in 
thinking himself cold, and that he felt no sympathy in the 
fever of patriotism that was throbbing through his coun- 
trymen. He was restless as a flame ; he could not fix 
his thoughts upon his book ; he could not sit in his 
chair, but kept pacing to and fro, while through the open 
window came noises to which his imagination gave di- 
verse interpretation. Now it was a distant drum ; now 
shouts ; by and by there came the rattle of musketry, 
that seemed to proceed from some point more distant 
than the village; a regular roll, then a ragged volley, 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 31 

then scattering shots. Unable any longer to preserve 
this unnatural indifference, Septimius snatched his gun, 
and, rushing out of the house, climbed the abrupt hillside 
behind, whence he could see a long way towards the vil- 
lage, till a slight bend hid the uneven road. It was 
quite vacant, not a passenger upon it. But there seemed 
to be confusion in that direction ; an unseen and inscru- 
table trouble, blowing thence towards him, intimated by 
vague sounds, — by no sounds. Listening eagerly, how- 
ever, he at last fancied a mustering sound of the drum ; 
then it seemed as if it were coming towards him ,• while 
in advance rode another horseman, the same kind of 
headlong messenger, in appearance, who had passed the 
house with his ghastly cry of alarum ; then appeared 
scattered countrymen, with guns in their hands, strag- 
gling across fields. Then he caught sight of the regular 
array of British soldiers, filling the road with their front, 
and marching along as firmly as ever, though at a quick 
pace, while he fancied that the officers looked watchfully 
around. As he looked, a shot rang sharp from the hill- 
side towards the village ; the smoke curled up, and Sep- 
timius saw a man stagger and fall in the midst of the 
troops. Septimius shuddered ; it was so like murder 
that he really could not tell the difference ; his knees 
trembled beneath him ; his breath grew short, not with 
terror, but with some new sensation of awe. 

Another shot or two came almost simultaneously from 
the wooded height, but without any effect that Septimius 
could perceive. Almost at the same moment a company 
of the British soldiers wheeled from the main body, and, 
dashing out of the road, climbed the hill, and disappeared 



32 SEPTLVIIUS FEI/rON. 

into the wood and shrubbery that veiled it. There were 
a few straggling shots, by whom fired, or with what 
effect, was invisible, and meanwhile the main body of 
the enemy proceeded along the road. They had now 
advanced so nigh that Septimius was strangely assailed 
by the idea that he miglit, with the gun in his hand, 
fire right into the midst of them, and select any man of 
that now hostile band to be a victim. How strange, 
how strange it is, this deep, wild passion that nature has 
implanted in us to be the death of our fellow-creatures, 
and which coexists at the same time with horror ! Sep- 
timius levelled his weapon, and drew it up again ; he 
marked a mounted officer, who seemed to be in chief 
command, whom he knew that he could kill. But no ! 
he had really no such purpose. Only it was such a 
temptation. And in a monjent the horse would leap, 
the officer would fall and lie there in the dust of the 
road, bleeding, gasping, breathing in spasms, breathing 
no more. 

While the young man, in these unusual circumstances, 
stood watching the marching of the troops, he heard the 
noise of rustling boughs, and the voices of men, and 
soon understood that the party, which he had seen 
separate itself from the main body and ascend the hill, 
was now marching along on the hill-top, the long ridge 
which, with a gap or two, extended as much as a mile 
from the village. One of these gaps occurred a little 
way from where Septimius stood. They were acting as 
flank guard, to prevent the uproused people from coming 
so close to the main body as to fire upon it. He looked 
and saw that the detachment of Brllisii was plunging 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 33 

down one side of this gap, with intent to ascend the 
other, so tliat they would pass directly over the spot 
where he stood ; a slight removal to one side, among the 
small bushes, would conceal him. He stepped aside 
accordingly, and from his concealment, not without 
drawing quicker breaths, beheld the party draw near. 
They were more intent upon the space between them 
and the main body than upon the dense thicket of 
birch-trees, pitch-pines, sumach, and dwarf oaks, which, 
scarcely yet beginning to bud into leaf, lay on the other 
side, and in which Septimius lurked. 

[^Describe how their faces affected him, passing so near; 
how strange they seemed^ 

They had all passed, except an officer who brought up 
the rear, and who had perhaps been attracted by some 
slight motion that Septimius made, — some rustle in the 
thicket ; for he stopped, fixed his eyes piercingly towards 
the spot where he stood, and levelled a light fusil which 
he carried. " Stand out, or I shoot," said he. 

Not to avoid the shot, but because his manhood felt a 
call upon it not to skulk in obscurity from an open 
enemy, Septimius at once stood forth, and confronted the 
same handsome young officer with whom those fierce 
words had passed on account of his rudeness to Rose 
Garfield. Septimius's fierce Indian blood stirred in him, 
and gave a murderous excitement. 

" Ah, it is you ! " said the young officer, with a 
haughty smile. " You meant, then, to take up with my 
hint of shooting at me from behind a hedge ? This is 
better. Come, we have in the first place the great quar- 
rel between me a king's soldier, and you a rebel ; next 
2* c 



34 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

our private affair, on account of yonder pretty girl. 
Come, let us take a shot on either score ! " 

Tlie young officer was so handsome, so beautiful, in 
budding youth ; there was such a free, gay petulance in 
his manner ; there seemed so little of real evil in him ; he 
put himself on equal ground with the rustic Septimius so 
generously, that the latter, often so morbid and sullen, 
never felt a greater kindness for fellow-man than at this 
moment for this youth. 

'" I have no enmity towards you," said he ; " go in 
peace." 

" No enmity ! " replied the officer. " Then why were 
you here with your gun amongst the shrubbery ? But I 
have a mind to do my first deed of arms on you ; so give 
up your weapon, and come with me as prisoner," 

'* A prisoner ! " cried Septimius, that Indian fierceness 
that was in him arousing itself, and thrusting up its ma- 
lign head like a snake. " Never ! If you would have 
me, you must take my dead body." 

" Ah well, you have pluck in you, I see, only it needs 
a considerable stirring. Come, this is a good quarrel of 
ours. Let us fight it out. Stand where you are, and I 
will give the word of command. Now ; ready, aim, 
fire ! " 

As the young officer spoke the three last words, in 
rapid succession, he and his antagonist brought their 
firelocks to the shoulder, aimed and fired. Septimius 
felt, as it were, the stmg of a gadfly passing across his 
temple, as the Englishman's bullet grazed it ; but, to his 
surprise and horror (for the whole thing scarcely seemed 
real to him), he saw the officer give a great start, drop 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 35 

his fusil, and stagger against a tree, witli liis hand to his 
breast. He endeavored to support himself erect, but, 
failing in the effort, beckoned to Septimius. 

" Come, my good friend," said he, with that playful, 
petulant smile flitting over his face again. "It is my 
first and last fight. Let me down as softly as you can 
on mother earth, the mother of both you and me ; so we 
are brothers ; and this may be a brotherly act, though it 
does not look so, nor feel so. Ah ! that was a twinge 
indeed ! " 

" Good God ! " exclaimed Septimius. " I had no 
thought of this, no malice towards you in the least ! " 

"Nor I towards you," said the young man. "It was 
boy's play, and the end of it is that I die a boy, instead 
of living forever, as perhaps I otherwise might." 

" Living forever ! " repeated Septimius, his attention 
arrested, even at that breathless moment, by words that 
rang so strangely on what had been his brooding thought. 

" Yes ; but I have lost my chance," said the young 
officer. Then, as Septimius helped him to lie against 
the little hillock of a decayed and buried stump, " Thank 
you ; thank you. If you could only call back one of 
my comrades to hear my dying words. But I forgot. 
You have killed me, and they would take your life." 

In truth, Septimius was so moved and so astonished, 
that he probably would have called back the young man's 
comrades, had it been possible; but, marching at the 
swift rate of men in peril, they had already gone far on- 
ward, in their passage through the shrubbery that had 
ceased to rustle behind them. 

" Yes ; I must die here ! " said the young man, with 



56 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

a forlorn expression, as of a school-boy far away from 
home, "and nobody to see me now but you, who have 
killed me. Could you fetch me a drop of water? I 
have a great thirst." 

Septimius, in a dream of horror and pity, rushed 
down the hillside ; the house was empty, for Aunt Ke- 
ziah had gone for shelter and sympathy to some of the 
neighbors. He filled a jug with cold water, and hurried 
back to the hill-top, finding the young officer looking 
paler and more deathlike within those few moments. 

" I thank you, my enemy tliat was, my friend that is," 
murmured he, faintly smihng. " Methinks, next to the 
father and mother that gave us birth, the next most in- 
timate relation must be with the man that slays us, who 
introduces us to the mysterious world to which this is 
but the portal. You and I are singularly connected, 
doubt it not, in the scenes of the unknown world." 

" O, believe me," cried Septimius, " I grieve for you 
like a brother ! " 

" I see it, my dear friend," said the young officer ; 
" and though my blood is on your hands, I forgive you 
freely, if there is anything to forgive. But I am dying, 
and have a few words to say, which you must hear. 
You have slain me in fair fight, and my spoils, according 
to the rules and customs of warfare, belong to the vic- 
tor. Hang up my sword and fusil over your chimney- 
place, and tell your children, twenty years hence, how 
they were won. My purse, keep it or give it to the 
poor. There is something, here next my heart, which I 
would fain nave sent to the address which I will give 
you." 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 37 

Septimius, obeying liis directions, took from liis breast 
a miniature that hung round it ; but, on examination, it 
proved that the bullet had passed directly through it, 
shattering the ivory, so that the woman's face it repre- 
sented was quite destroyed. 

" Ah ! that is a pity," said the young man ; and yet 
Septimius thought that there was something light and 
contemptuous mingled with the pathos in his tones. 
" Well, but send it ; cause it to be transmitted, accord- 
ing to the address." 

He gave Septimius, and made him take down on a tab- 
let which he had about him, the name of a hall in one of 
the midland counties of England. 

" Ah, that old place," said he, " with its oaks, and its 
lawn, and its park, and its Elizabethan gables ! I little 
thought I should die here, so far away, in this barren 
Yaukee land. Where will you bury me ? " 

As Septimius hesitated to answer, the young man con- 
tinued : " I would like to have lain in the little old church 
at Whitnash, which comes up before me now, with its low, 
gray tower, and the old yew-tree in front, hollow with 
age, and the village clustering about it, with its thatched 
houses. I would be loath to lie in one of your Yankee 
graveyards, for I have a distaste for them, — though I 
love you, my slayer. Bury me here, on this very spot. 
A soldier lies best where he falls." 

" Here, in secret ? " exclaimed Septimius. 

" Yes ; there is no consecration in your Puritan burial- 
grounds," said the dying youth, some of that queer nar- 
rowness of English Churchism coming into his mind. 
" So bury me here, in my soldier's dress. Ah ! and 



38 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

my watcli ! I have done with time, and you, perhaps, 
have a long lease of it ; so take it, not as spoil, but 
as my parting gift. And that reminds me of one other 
thing. Open that pocket-book which you have in your 
hand." 

Septimius did so, and by the officer's direction took 
from one of its compartments a folded paper, closely 
written in a crabbed hand ; it was considerably worn in 
the outer folds, but not within. There was also a small 
silver key in the pocket-book. 

" I leave it with you," said the officer ; " it was given 
me by an uncle, a learned man of science, who intended 
me great good by what he there wrote. Reap the profit, 
if you can. Sooth to say, I never read beyond the first 
lines of the paper." 

Septimius was surprised, or deeply impressed, to see 
that through this paper, as well as through the minia- 
ture, had gone his fatal bullet, — straight through the 
midst; and some of the young man's blood, saturating 
his dress, had wet the paper all over. He hardly thought 
himself likely to derive any good from what it' had cost 
a human life, taken (however uncriminally) by his own 
hands, to obtain. 

" Is there anything more that I can do for you ? " 
asked he, with genuine sympathy and sorrow, as he knelt 
by his fallen foe's side. 

"Nothing, nothing, I believe," said he. "There was 
one thing I might have confessed ; if there were a holy 
man here, I might have confessed, and asked his prayers ; 
for though I have lived few years, it has been long 
enough to do a great wrong. But I will try to pray in 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 39 

my secret soul. Turn my face towards tlie trunk of the 
tree, for I have taken my last look at the world. There, 
let me be now." 

Septlmius did as the young man requested, and then 
stood leaning against one of the neighboring pines, watch- 
ing his victim with a tender concern that made him feel 
as if the convulsive throes that passed through his frame 
were felt equally in his own. There was a murmuring 
from the youth's lips which seemed to Septimius swift, 
soft, and melancholy, like the voice, of a child when it has 
some naughtiness to confess to its mother at bedtime ; 
contrite, pleading, yet trusting. So it continued for a 
few minutes ; then there was a sudden start and struggle, 
as if he were striving to rise ; his eyes met those of Sep- 
timius with a wild, troubled gaze, but as the latter caught 
liim in his arras, he was dead. Septimius laid the body 
softly down on the leaf-strewn earth, and tried, as he had 
heard was the custom with the dead, to compose the 
features distorted by the dying agony. He then flung 
himself on the ground at a little distance, and gave him- 
self up to the reflections suggested by the strange occur- 
rences of the last hour. 

He had taken a human life ; and, however the circum- 
stances might excuse him, — might make the thing even 
something praiseworthy, and that would be called patri- 
otic, — still, it was not at once that a fresh country 
youth could see anything but horror in the blood with 
which his hand was stained. It seemed so dreadful to 
have reduced this gay, animated, beautiful being to a 
lump of dead flesh for the flies to settle upon, and which 
in a few hours would begin to decay ; which must be 



40 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

put forthwith into the earth, lest it should be a horror 
to men's eyes ; that delicious beauty for woman to love ; 
that strength and courage to make him famous among 
men, — all come to nothing ; all probabihties of life in 
one so gifted ; the renown, the position, the pleasures, 
the profits, the keen ecstatic joy, — this never could be 
made up, — all ended quite ; for the dark doubt de- 
scended upon Septimius, that, because of the very fitness 
that was in this youth to enjoy this world, so much the 
less chance was there of his being fit for any other 
world. What could it do for him there, — this beautiful 
grace and elegance of feature, — where there was no 
form, nothing tangible nor visible ? what good that readi- 
ness and aptness for associating with all created things, 
doing his part, acting, enjoying, when, under the changed 
conditions of another state of being, all this adaptedness 
would fail ? Had he been gifted with permanence on 
earth, there could not have been a more admirable crea- 
ture than this young man ; but as his fate had turned 
out, he was a mere grub, an illusion, something that 
nature had held out in mockery, and then withdrawn. 
A weed might grow from his dust now ; that little spot 
on the barren hill-top, where he had desired to be 
buried, would be greener for some years to come, and 
that was all the difference. Septimius could not get 
beyond the earth iness ; his feehng was as if, by an act 
of violence, he had forever cut off a happy human exist- 
ence. And such was his own love of life and clinging 
to it, peculiar to dark, sombre natures, and which lighter 
and gayer ones can never know, that he shuddered at 
his deed, and at himself, and could with difficulty bear 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 41 

to be alone with the corpse of his victim, — trembled at 
the thought of turuiug his face towards him. 

Yet he did so, because he could not endure the imagi- 
nation that the dead youth was turning his eyes towards 
him as he lay ; so he came and stood beside him, looking 
down into his white, upturned face. But it was won- 
derful ! What a change had come over it since, only a 
few moments ago, he looked at that death-contorted 
countenance ! Now there was a high and sweet expres- 
sion upon it, of great joy and surprise, and yet a quie- 
tude diifused throughout, as if the peace being so very 
great was what had surprised him. The expression was 
like a light gleaming and glowing within him. Septiin- 
ius had often, at a certain space of time after sunset, 
looking westward, seen a living radiance in the sky, — 
the last light of the dead day, that seemed just tiie 
counterpart of this death-light in the young man's face. 
It was as if the youth were just at the gate of heaven, 
which, swinging softly open, let the inconceivable glory 
of the blessed city shine upon his face, and kindle it up 
with gentle, undisturbing astonishment and purest joy. 
It was an expression contrived by God's providence to 
comfort ; to overcome all the dark auguries that the 
physical ugliness of death inevitably creates, and to 
prove by the divine glory on the face, that the ugli- 
ness is a delusion. It was as if the dead man himself 
showed his face out of the sky, with heaven's blessing 
on it, and bade the afflicted be of good cheer, and believe 
in immortality. 

Septimius remembered the young man's injunctions 
to bury him there, on the hill, without uncovering the 



42 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

body ; and though it seemed a sin and shame to cover 
up that beautiful body with earth of the grave, and give 
it to the worm, yet he resolved to obey. 

Be it confessed that, beautiful as the dead form 
looked, and guiltless as Septimius must be held in caus- 
ing his death, still he felt as if he should be eased when 
it was under the ground. He hastened down to the 
house, and brought up a shovel and a pickaxe, and began 
his unwonted task of grave-digging, delving earnestly a 
deep pit, sometimes pausing in his toil, while the sweat- 
drops poured from him, to look at the beautiful clay that 
was to occupy it. Sometimes he paused, too, to listen 
to the shots that pealed in the far distance, towards the 
east, whither the battle had long since rolled out of 
reach and almost out of hearing. It seemed to have 
gathered about itself the whole life of the land, attend- 
ing it along its bloody course in a struggling throng of 
shouting, shooting men, so still and solitary was every- 
thing left behind it. It seemed the very midland solitude 
of the world where Septimius was delving at the grave. 
He and his dead were alone together, and he was going 
to put the body under the sod, and be quite alone. 

The grave was now deep, and Septimius was stooping 
down into its depths among dirt and pebbles, levelling 
oif the bottom, which he considered to be profound 
enough to hide the young man's mystery forever, when 
a voice spoke above him ; a solemn, quiet voice, which 
he knew well. 

" Septimius ! what are you doing here ? " 

He looked up and saw the minister. 

"I have slain a man in fair fight," answered he, "and 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 43 

am about to bury liim as lie requested. I am glad you 
are come. You, reverend sir, can fitly say a prayer at 
his obsequies. I am glad for my own sake; for it is 
very lonely and terrible to be here." 

He climbed out of the grave, and, in reply to the 
minister's inquiries, communicated to him the events of 
the morning, and the youth's strange wish to be buried 
here, without having his remains subjected to the hands 
of those who would prepare it for the grave. The min- 
ister hesitated. 

" At an ordinary time," said he, " such a singular 
request would of course have to be refused. Your own 
safety, the good and wise rules that make it necessary 
that all things relating to death and burial should bb 
done publicly and in order, would forbid it." 

"Yes," replied Septimius; "but, it may be, scores 
of men will fall to-day, and be flung into hasty graves 
without funeral rites ; without its ever being Known, per- 
haps, what mother has lost her son. I cannot but think 
that I ought to perform the dying request of the youth 
whom I have slain. He trusted in me not to uncover his 
body myself, nor to betray it to the hands of others." 

" A singular request," said the good minister, gazing 
with deep interest at the beautiful dead face, and grace- 
ful, slender, manly figure. " What could have been its 
motive ? But no matter. I think, Septimius, that you 
are bound to obey his request ; indeed, having promised 
him, nothing short of an impossibility should prevent 
your keeping your faith. Let us lose no time, then." 

With few but deeply solemn rites the young stranger 
was laid by the minister and the youth who slew him in 



4-i SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

his grave. A prayer was made, aud then Septimius, 
gathering some branches and twigs, spread them over 
the face that was turned upward from the bottom of the 
pit, into which the sun gleamed downward, throwing its 
rays so as almost to touch it. The twigs partially hid 
it, but still its white shone through. Then the minister 
tlu'ew a handful of earth upon it, aud, accustomed as 
he was to burials, tears fell from his eyes along with the 
mould. 

" It is sad," said he, " this poor young man, coming 
from opulence, no doubt, a dear English home, to die 
here for no end, one of the ilrst-fruits of a bloody war, 
— so much privately sacrificed. But let him rest, Sep- 
timius. 1 am sorry that he fell by your hand, though it 
involves no shadow of a crime. But death is a thing 
too serious not to melt into ihe nature of a man like 
you." 

" It does not weigh upon my conscience, I think," said 
Septimius ; " though I cannot but feel sorrow, and wish 
my hand were as clean as yesterday. It is, indeed, 
a dreadful thing lo take human life." 

" It is a most serious thing," replied the minister ; " but 
perhaps we are apt to over-estimate the importance of 
death at any particular moment. If the question were 
whether to die or to live forever, then, indeed, scarcely 
anything should justify the putting a fellow-creature to 
death. But since it only shortens his earthly life, and 
brings a Uttle forward a change which, since God per^ 
mits it, is, we may conclude, as fit to take place then as 
at any other time, it alters the case. I often think that 
there are many things that occur to us in our daily life, 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 45 

many unknown crises, that are more important to us 
than this mysterious circumstance of death, which we 
deem the most important of all. All we understand of 
it is, that it takes the dead person away from our knowl- 
edge of him, which, while we live with him, is so very 
scanty." 

" You estimate at nothing, it seems, his earthly life, 
which might have been so happy." 

"At next to nothing," said the minister; "since, as 
I have observed, it must, at any rate, have closed so 
soon." 

Septimius thought of what the young man, in his 
last moments, had said of his prospect or opportunity 
of living a life of interminable length, and which pros- 
pect he had bequeathed to himself. But of this he did 
not speak to the minister, being, indeed, ashamed to 
have it supposed that he would put any serious weight 
on such a bequest, although it might be that the dark 
enterprise of his nature had secretly seized upon this 
idea, and, though yet sane enough to be influenced by 
a fear of ridicule, was busy incorporating it with his 
thoughts. 

So Septimius smoothed down the young stranger's 
earthy bed, and returned to his home, where he hung 
up the sword over the mantel-piece in his study, and 
hung the gold watch, too, on a nail, — the first time he 
had ever had possession of such a thing. Nor did he 
now feel altogether at ease in his mind about keeping 
it, — the time-measurer of one whose mortal life he had 
cut off. A splendid watch it was, round as a turnip. 
There seems to be a natural right in one who has slain 



46 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

a man to step into bis vacant place in all respects ; and 
from the beginning of man's dealings with man this right 
has been practically recognized, whether among warriors 
or robbers, as paramount to every other. Yet Septimius 
could not feel easy in availing himself of this right. He 
therefore resolved to keep the watch, and even the sword 
and fusil, — which were less questionable spoils of war, 
— only till he should be able to restore them to some 
representative of the young officer. The contents of the 
purse, in accordance with the request of the dying youth, 
he would expend in relieving the necessities of those 
whom the war (now broken out, and of which no one 
could see the limit) might put in need of it. The min- 
iature, with its broken and shattered face, that had so 
vainly interposed itself between its wearer and death, had 
been sent to its address. 

But as to the mysterious document, the written paper, 
that he had laid aside without unfolding it, but with a 
care that betokened more interest in it than in either 
gold or weapon, or even in the golden representative of 
that earthly time on which he set so high a value. 
There was something tremulous in his touch of it; it 
seemed as if he were afraid of it by the mode in which 
he hid it away, and secured himself from it, as it were. 

This done, the air of the room, the low-ceilinged east- 
em room where he studied and thought, became too 
close for him, and he hastened out ; for he was full of 
the unshaped sense of all that had befallen, and the per- 
ception of the great public event of a broken-out war 
was intermixed with that of what he had done personally 
in the great struggle that was beginning. He longed, 



SEPTIMIUS ' FELTON. 47 

too, to know what was the news of the battle that had 
gone rolling onward along the hitherto peaceful country 
road, converting everywhere (this demon of war, we 
mean), with one blast of its red sulphurous breath, the 
peaceful husbandman to a soldier thirsting for blood. 
He turned his steps, therefore, towards the village, think- 
ing it probable that news must have arrived either of 
defeat or victory, from messengers or fliers, to cheer or 
sadden the old men, the women, and the children, who 
alone perhaps remained there. 

But Septimius did not get to the village. As he 
passed along by the cottage that has been already de- 
scribed. Rose Garfield was standing at the door, peering 
anxiously forth to know what was the issue of the con- 
flict, — as it has been woman's fate to do from the begin- 
ning of the world, and is so still. Seeing Septimius, she 
forgot the restraint that she had hitherto kept herself 
under, and, flying at him like a bird, she cried out, " Sep- 
timius, dear Septimius, where have you been? What 
news do you bring ? You look as if you had seen some 
strange and dreadful thing." 

" Ah, is it so ? Does my face tell such stories ? " ex- 
claimed the young man. "I did not mean it should. 
Yes, E,ose, I have seen and done such things as change a 
man in a moment." 

" Then you have been in this terrible fight," said Rose. 

"Yes, Rose, I have had my part in it," answered 
Septimius. 

He was on the point of relieving his overburdened 
mind by telling her what had happened no farther off 
than on the hill above them ; but, seeing her excitement, 



4S SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

and recollecting Ler own momentary interview with the 
young officer, and the forced intimacy and link that had 
been established between them by the kiss, he feared to 
agitate her further by telling her that that gay and beau- 
tiful young man had since been slain, and deposited in a 
bloody grave by his hands. And yet the recollection of 
that kiss caused a thrill of vengeful joy at the thought 
that the perpetrator had since expiated his offence with 
his life, and that it was himself that did it, so deeply was 
Septimius's Indian nature of revenge and blood incor- 
porated with that of more peaceful forefathers, although 
Septimius had grace enough to chide down that bloody 
spirit, feeling that it made him, not a patriot, but a mur- 
derer. 

"Ah," said Rose, shuddering, "it is awful when we 
must kill one another ! And who knows where it will 
end?" 

"With me it will end here, Rose," said Septimius. 
" It may be lawful for any man, even if he have devoted 
himself to God, or however peaceful his pursuits, to fight 
to the death when the enemy's step is on the soil of his 
home; but only for that perilous juncture, which passed, 
he should return to his own way of peace. I have done 
a terrible thing for once, dear Rose, one that might well 
trace a dark line through all my future life ; but hence- 
forth I cannot think it my duty to pursue any further a 
work for which my studies and my nature unfit me." 

" no ! no ! " said Rose ; " never ! and you a 
mhiister, or soon to be one. There must be some 
peacemakers left in the world, or everything will turn to 
blood and confusion ; for even women grow dreadfully 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 49 

fierce in these times. Mj old grandmother laments her 
bedriddenness, because, she says, she cannot go to cheer 
on the people against the enemy. But she remembers 
the old times of the Indian wars, when the women were 
as much in danger of death as the men, and so were 
almost as fierce as they, and killed men sometimes with 
their own hands. But women, nowadays, ought to be 
gentler; let the men be fierce, if they must, except you, 
and such as you, Septimius." 

"Ah, dear Rose," said Septimius, "I have not the 
kind and sweet impulses that you speak of. I need 
something to soften and warm my cold, hard life ; some- 
thing to make me feel how dreadful this time of warfare 
is. I need you, dear Rose, who are all kindness of heart 
and mercy." 

And here Septimius, hurried away by I know not 
what excitement of the time,— the disturbed state of 
the country, his own ebullition of passion, the deed he 
had done, the desire to press one human being close to 
his life, because he had shed the blood of another, his 
half-formed purposes, his shapeless impulses; in short, 
being afiected by the whole stir of his nature, — spoke 
to Rose of love, and with an energy that, indeed, there 
was no resisting when once it broke bounds. And Rose, 
whose maiden thoughts, to say the truth, had long dwelt 
upon this young man, — admiring him for a certain dark 
beauty, knowing him familiarly from childhood, and yet 
having the sense, that is so bewitching, of remoteness, 
intermixed with intimacy, because he was so unlike her- 
self; having a woman's respect for scholarship, her im- 
agination the more impressed by all in him that she could 



50 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

not comprehend, — Rose yielded to his impetuous suit, 
and gave him the troth that he requested. And yet it 
was with a sort of reluctance and drawing back ; her 
whole nature, her secretest heart, her deepest woman- 
hood, perhaps, did not consent. There was something 
in Septimius, in his wild, mixed nature, the monstrous- 
ness that had grown out of his hybrid race, the black 
infusions, too, which melancholic men had left there, 
the devilishness that had been symbolized in the popu- 
lar regard about his family, that made her shiver, even 
while she came the closer to him for that very dread. 
And when he gave her the kiss of betrothment her lips 
grew white. If it had not been in the day of turmoil, 
if he had asked her in any quiet time, when Rose's heart 
was in its natural mood, it may well be that, with tears 
and pity for him, and half-pity for herself, Rose would 
have told Septimius that she did not think she could 
love him well enough to be his wife. 

And how was it with Septimius? Well; there was 
a singular correspondence in his feelings to those of 
Rose Garfield. At first, carried away by a passion that 
seized him all unawares, and seemed to develop itself all 
in a moment, he felt, and so spoke to Rose, so pleaded 
his suit, as if his whole earthly happiness depended on 
her consent to be his bride. It seemed to him that her 
love would be the sunshine in the gloomy dungeon of 
his life. But when her bashful, downcast, tremulous 
consent was given, then immediately came a strange 
misgiving into his mind. He felt as if he had taken to 
himself something good and beautiful doubtless in itself, 
but which might be the exchange for one more suited 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 51 

to him, that he must now give up. The intellect, whicli 
was the prominent point in Septimius, stirred and heaved, 
crying out vaguely that its own claims, perhaps, were 
ignored in this contract. Septimius had perhaps no 
right to love at all; if he did, it should have been a 
woman of another make, who could be his intellectual 
companion and helper. And then, perchance, — per- 
chance, — there was destined for him some high, lonely 
path, in which, to make any progress, to come to any 
end, he must walk unburdened by the affections. Such 
thoughts as these depressed and chilled (as many men 
have found them, or similar ones, to do) the moment of 
success that should have been the most exulting in the 
world. And so, in the kiss which these two lovers had 
exchanged there was, after all, something that repelled ; 
and when they parted they wondered at their strange 
states of mind, but would not acknowledge that they 
had done a thing that ought not to have been done. 
Nothing is surer, however, than that, if we suffer our- 
selves to be drawn into too close proximity with people, 
if we over-estimate the degree of our proper tendency 
towards them, or theirs towards us, a reaction is sure to 
follow. 

Septimius quitted Rose, and resumed his walk towards 
the village. But now it was near sunset, and there be- 
gan to be straggling passengers along the road, some of 
whom came slowly, as if they had received hurts; all 
seemed wearied. Among them one form appeared which 
Rose soon found that she recognized. It was Robert 
Hagburn, with a shattered firelock in his hand, broken 



52 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

at tlie butt, aad his left arm bound with a fragment of 
his shirt, and suspended in a handkerchief; and he 
walked weariedly, but brightened up at sight of Rose, 
as if ashamed to let her see how exhausted and dispirited 
he was. Perhaps he expected a smile, at least a more 
earnest reception than he met; for Rose, with the re- 
straint of what had recently passed drawing her back, 
merely went gravely a few steps to meet him, and said, 
" Robert, how tired and pale you look ! Are you 
hurt ? " 

" It is of no consequence," replied Robert Hagburn ; 
" a scratch on my left arm from an officer's sword, with 
whose head my gunstock made instant acquaintance. 
It is no matter. Rose ; you do not care for it, nor do I 
either." 

" How can you say so, Robert ? " she replied. But 
without more greeting he passed her, and went into his 
own house, where, flinging himself into a chair, he re- 
mamed in that despondency that men generally feel after 
a fight, even if a successful one. 

Septimius, the next day, lost no time in writing a 
letter to the direction given him by the young officer, 
conveying a brief account of the latter's death and burial, 
and a signification that he held in readiness to give up 
certain articles of property, at any future time, to his 
representatives, mentioning also the amount of money 
contained in the purse, and his intention, in compliance 
with the verbal will of the deceased, to expend it in 
alleviating the wants of prisoners. Having so done, he 
went up on the hill to look at the grave, and satisfy him- 
self that the scene there had not been a dream ; a point 



SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 53 

wliich he was inclined to question, in spite of tlie tangible 
evidence of the sword and watch, M^iich still hung over 
the mantel-piece. There was the little mound, however, 
looking so incontrovertibly a grave, that it seemed to him 
as if all the world must see it, and wonder at the fact of 
its being there, and spend their wits in conjecturing who 
slept within ; and, indeed, it seemed to give the affair a 
questionable character, this secret burial, and he wondered 
and wondered why the young man had been so earnest 
about it. Well; there was the grave; and, moreover, 
on the leafy earth, where the dying youth had lain, there 
were traces of blood, which no rain had yet washed 
away. Septimius wondered at the easiness with which 
he acquiesced in this deed ; in fact, he felt in a slight 
degree the effects of that taste of blood, which makes 
the slaying of men, like any other abuse, sometimes 
become a passion. Perhaps it was his Indian trait 
stirring in him again; at any rate, it is not delightful 
to observe how readily man becomes a blood-shedding 
animal. 

Looking down from the hill-top, he saw the little 
dwelling of Rose Garfield, and caught a glimpse of the 
girl herself, passing the windows or the door, about her 
household duties, and listened to hear the singing which 
usually broke out of her. But Rose, for some reason or 
other, did not warble as usual this morning. She trod 
about silently, and somehow or other she was translated 
out of the ideality in which Septimius usually enveloped 
her, and looked little more than a New England girl, 
very pretty indeed, but not enough so perhaps to engross 
a man's life and higher purposes into her own narrow 



54 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

circle ; so, at least, Septimius thought. Lookhig a little 
farther, — down into the green recess where stood Robert 
Hagburn's house, — he saw that young man, looking 
very pale, "with his arm in a sling sitting listlessly on a 
half-chopped log of wood w^hich was not likely soon to be 
severed by Robert's axe. Like other lovers, Septimius 
had not failed to be aware that Robert Hagburn was sen- 
sible to Rose Garfield's attractions ; and now, as he looked 
down on them both from his elevated position, he won- 
dered if it would not have been better for Rose's happi- 
ness if her thoughts and virgin fancies had settled on 
that frank, cheerful, able, wholesome young man, instead 
of on himself, who met her on so few points; and, in 
relation to whom, there was perhaps a plant that had its 
root in the grave, that would entwine itself around his 
whole life, overshadowing it with dark, rich fohage and 
fruit that he alone could feast upon. 

Eor the sombre imagination of Septimius, though he 
kept it as much as possible away from the subject, still 
kept hinting and whispering, still coming back to the 
point, still secretly suggesting that the event of yesterday 
was to have momentous consequences upon his fate. 

He had not yet looked at the paper which the young 
man bequeathed to him ; he had laid it away unopened ; 
not that he felt little interest in it, but, on the contrary, 
because he looked for some blaze of light which had been 
reserved for him alone. The young officer had been only 
the bearer of it to him, and he had come hither to die by 
his hand, because that was the readiest way by which he 
could deliver his message. How else, in the infinite 
chances of human affairs, could the document have found 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 55 

its way to its destined possessor ? Thus mused Septim- 
ius, pacing to and fro on the level edge of his hill-top, 
apart from the world, looking down occasionally into it, 
and seeing its love and interest away from him ; while 
Kose, it might be looking upward, saw occasionally his 
passing figure, and trembled at the nearness and remote- 
ness that existed between them ; and Robert Hagburn 
looked too, and wondered what manner of man it was 
wbo, having won Rose Garfield (for his instinct told him 
this was so), could keep that distance between her and 
liim, thinking remote thoughts. 

Yes ; there was Septimiua, treading a path of his own 
on the hill-top ; his feet began only that morning to wear 
it in his walking to and fro, sheltered from the lower 
world, except in occasional glimpses, by the birches and 
locusts that tlirew up their foHage from the hillside. But 
many a year thereafter he continued to tread that path, 
till it was worn deep with his footsteps and trodden 
down hard ; and it was believed by some of his supersti- 
tious neighbors that the grass and little shrubs shrank 
away from his path, and made it wider on that account ; 
because there was something in the broodings that urged 
him to and fro along the path alien to nature and its pro- 
ductions. There was another opinion, too, that an invisi- 
ble fiend, one of his relatives by blood, walked side by 
side with him, and so made the pathway wider than his 
single footsteps could have made it. But all this was 
idle, and was, indeed, only the foolish babble that hovers 
like a mist about men who withdraw themselves from the 
throng, and involve themselves in unintelligible pursuits 
and interests of their own. For the present, the small 



56 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

world, which aloue knew of him, considered Septimius as 
a studious young man, who was fitting for the ministry, 
and was likely enough to do credit to the ministerial 
blood that he drew from his ancestors, in spite of the 
wild stream that the Indian priest had contributed ; and 
perhaps none the worse, as a clergyman, for having an 
instinctive sense of the nature of the Devil from his tradi- 
tionary claims to partake of his blood. But what strange 
interest there is in tracing out the first steps by which we 
enter on a career that influences our life ; and this deep- 
worn pathway on the hill-top, passing and repassing by a 
grave, seemed to symbolize it in Septimius's case. 

I suppose the morbidness of Septimius's disposition 
was excited by the circumstances which had put the paper 
into his possession. Had he received it by post, it might 
not have impressed him ; he might possibly have looked 
over it with ridicule, and tossed it aside. But he had 
taken it from a dying man, and he felt ^hat his fate was 
in it J and truly it turned out to be so. He waited for a 
fit opportunity to open it and read it ; he put it off as if 
he cared nothing about it ; but perhaps it was because he 
cared so much. Whenever he had a happy time with 
Rose (and, moody as Septimius was, such happy moments 
came), he felt that then was not the time to look into the- 
paper, — it was not to be read in a happy mood. 

Once he asked Bose to walk with him on the hill- 
top. 

" Why, what a path you have worn here, Septimius ! " 
said the girl. " You walk miles and miles on this one 
spot, and get no farther on than when you started. That 
is strange walking ! " 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 57 

"I don't know, Rose; I sometimes think I get a 
little onward. But it is sweeter — jes, much sweeter, 
I find — to have you walking on this path here than to 
be treading it alone." 

" I am glad of that," said Rose ; " for sometimes, 
when I look up here, and see you through the branches, 
with your head bent down and your hands clasped 
behind you, treading, treading, treading, always in one 
way, I wonder whether I am at all in your mind. I 
don't think, Septimius," added she, looking up in his face 
and smiling, " that ever a girl had just such a young 
man for a lover." 

" No young man ever had such a girl, I am sure," 
said Septimius ; " so sweet, so good for him, so prolific 
of good influences ! " 

" Ah, it makes me think well of myself to bring such 
a smile into your face ! But, Septimius, what is this 
little hillock here so close to our path ? Have you 
heaped it up here for a seat ? Shall we sit down upon it 
for an instant ? — for it makes me more tired to walk 
backward and forward on one path than to go straight 
forward a much longer distance." 

"Well; but we will not sit down on this hillock," 
said Septimius, drawing her away from it. " Farther out 
this way, if you please. Rose, where we shall have a better 
view over the wide plain, the valley, and the long, tame 
ridge of hills on the other side, shutting it in like human 
life. It is a landscape that never tires, though it has 
nothing striking about it ; and I am glad that there are 
no great hills to be thrusting themselves into my 
thoughts, and crowding out better things. It might be 
3* 



58 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

desirable, in some states of mind, to have a glimpse of 
water, — to have the lake that once must have covered 
this green valley, — because water reflects the sky, and 
so is like religion in life, the spiritual element." 

" There is the brook running through it, though we do 
not see it," replied Rose ; " a torpid little brook, to be 
sure ; but, as you say, it has heaven in its bosom, like 
Walden Pond, or any wider one." 

As they sat together on the hill-top, they could look 
down into Robert Hagburn's enclosure, and they saw 
him, with his arm now relieved from the sling, walking 
about, in a very erect manner, with a middle-aged man 
by his side, to whom he seemed to be talking and explain- 
ing some matter. Even at that distance Septimius could 
see that the rustic stoop and uncouthness had somehow 
fallen away from Robert, and that he seemed devel- 
oped. 

" What has come to Robert Hagburn ? " said he. 
" He looks like another man than the lout I knew a few 
weeks ago." 

" Nothing," said Rose Garfield, " except what comes 
to a good many young men nowadays. He has enlisted, 
and is going to the war. It is a pity for his mother." 

" A great pity," said Septimius. " Mothers are greatly 
to be pitied all over the country just now, and there are 
some even more to be pitied than the mothers, though 
many of them do not know or suspect anything about 
their cause of grief at present." 

" Of whom do you speak ? " asked Rose. 

"I mean those many good and sweet young girls," 
said Septimius, '' who would have been happy wives to 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 59 

flie thousands of young men wlio now, like Robert Hag- 
burn, are going to tlie war. Those young men — many 
of them at least — will sicken and die in camp, or be shot 
down, or struck through with bayonets on battle-fields, 
and turn to dust and bones ; while the girls that would 
have loved them, and made happy firesides for them, will 
pine and wither, and tread along many sour and discon- 
tented years, and at last go out of life without knowing 
what life is. So you see, Rose, every shot that takes ef- 
fect kills two at least, or kills one and worse than kills 
the other." 

" No woman will live single on account of poor Robert 
Hagburn being shot," said Rose, with a change of tone ; 
" for he would never be married were he to stay at home 
and plough the field." 

" How can you tell that. Rose ? " asked Septimius. 

Rose did not tell how she came to know so much about 
Robert Hagburn's matrimonial purposes ; but after this 
little talk it appeared as if something had risen up be- 
tween them, — a sort of mist, a medium, in which their 
intimacy was not increased ; for the flow and interchange 
of sentiment was balked, and they took only one or two 
turns in silence along Septimius's trodden path. I don't 
know exactly what it was ; but there are cases in which 
it is inscrutably revealed to persons that they have made 
a mistake in what is of the highest concern to them ; 
and this truth often comes in the shape of a vague de- 
pression of the spirit, like a vapor settling down on a 
landscape ; a misgiving, coming and going perhaps, a 
lack of perfect certainty. Whatever it was. Rose and 
Septimius had no more tender and playful words that 



60 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

day ; and Rose soon went to look after her grandmother, 
and Septimius went and shut liimself up in his study, 
after making an arrangement to meet Rose the next 
day. 

Septimius shut himself up, and drew forth the docu- 
ment which the young officer, with that singular smile on 
his dying face, had bequeathed to him as the reward of 
his death. It was in a covering of folded parchment, 
right through which, as aforesaid, was a bullet-hole and 
some stains of blood. Septimius unrolled the parchment 
cover, and found inside a manuscript, closely written in 
a crabbed hand ; so crabbed, indeed, that Septimius could 
not at first read a word of it, nor even satisfy himself in 
what language it was written. There seemed to be Latin 
words, and some interspersed ones in Greek characters, 
and here and there he could doubtfully read an English 
sentence ; but, on the whole, it was an unintelligible 
mass, conveying somehow an idea that it was the fruit 
of vast labor and erudition, emanating from a mind very 
full of books, and grinding and pressing down the great 
accumulation of grapes that it had gathered from so 
many vineyards, and squeezing out rich viscid juices, — 
potent wine, — with which the reader might get drunk. 
Some of it, moreover, seemed, for the further mystifica- 
tion of the officer, to be written in cipher ; a needless 
precaution, it might seem, when the writer's natural chi- 
rography was so full of puzzle and bewilderment. 

Septimius looked at this strange manuscript, and it 
shook in his hands as he held it before his eyes, so 
great was his excitement. Probably, doubtless, it was 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 61 

in a great measure owing to the way in which it came 
to him, with such circumstances of tragedy and mys- 
tery; as if — so secret and so important was it — it 
could not be within the knowledge of two persons at 
once, and therefore it was necessary that one should die 
in the act of transmitting it to the hand of another, 
the destined possessor, inheritor, profiter by it. By the 
bloody hand, as all the great possessions in this world 
have been gained and inherited, he had succeeded to 
the legacy, the richest that mortal man ever could re- 
ceive. He pored over the inscrutable sentences, and 
wondered, when he should succeed in reading one, if it 
might summon up a subject-fiend, appearing with thun- 
der and devilish demonstrations. And by what other 
strange chance had the document come into the hand 
of him who alone was fit to receive it ? It seemed to 
Septimius, in his enthusiastic egotism, as if the whole 
chain of events had been arranged purposely for this 
end ; a difference had come between two kindred peo- 
ples ; a war had broken out ; a young officer, with the 
traditions of an old family represented in his line, had 
marched, and had met with a peaceful student, who had 
been incited from high and noble motives to take his 
life ; then came a strange, brief intimacy, in which his 
victim made the slayer his heir. All these chances, as 
they seemed, all these interferences of Providence, as 
they doubtless were, had been necessary in order to put 
this manuscript into the hands of Septimius, who now 
pored over it, and could not with certainty read one 
word ! 

But this did not trouble him, except for the momen- 



62 SEPTIMITJS FELTON. 

tary delay. Because he felt well assured that the strong, 
concentrated study that he would bring to it would 
remove all difficulties, as the rays of a lens melt stones ; 
as the telescope pierces through densest light of stars, 
and resolves them into their individual brilliancies. He 
could afford to spend years upon it if it were necessary ; 
but earnestness and application should do quickly the 
work of years. 

Amid these musings he was interrupted by his Aunt 
Keziah ; though generally observant enough of her 
nephew's studies, and feeling a sanctity in them, both 
because of his intending to be a minister and because she 
had a great reverence for learning, even if heathenish, 
this good old lady summoned Septimius somewhat per- 
emptorily to chop wood for her domestic purposes. 
How strange it is, — the way in which we are summoned 
from all high purposes by these little homely necessities ; 
all symbolizing the great fact that the earthly part of us, 
with its demands, takes up the greater portion of all our 
available force. So Septimius, grumbling and groaning, 
went to the wood-shed and exercised himself for an hour 
as the old lady requested ; and it was only by instinct 
that he worked, hardly conscious what he was doing. 
The whole of passing life seemed impertinent ; or if, for 
an instant, it seemed otherwise, then his lonely specula- 
tions and plans seemed to become impalpable, and to 
have only the consistency of vapor, which his utmost 
concentration succeeded no further than to make into the 
likeness of absurd faces, mopping, mowing, and laughing 
at him. 

But that sentence of mystic meaning shone out before 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 63 

him like a transparency, illuminated in the darkness of 
his mind ; he determined to take it for his motto until he 
should be victorious in his quest. When he took his 
candle, to retire apparently to bed, he again drew forth 
the manuscript, and, sitting down by the dim light, tried 
vainly to read it ; but he could not as yet settle himself 
to concentrated and regular effort ; he kept turning the 
leaves of the manuscript, in the hope that some other 
illuminated sentence might gleam out upon him, as the 
first had done, and shed a light on the context around it ; 
and that then another would be discovered, with similar 
effect, until the whole document would thus be illumina- 
ted with separate stars of light, converging and concen- 
trating in one radiance that should make the whole visi- 
ble. But such was his bad fortune, not another word of 
the manuscript was he able to read that whole evening ; 
and, moreover, while he had still an inch of candle left. 
Aunt Keziah, in her nightcap, — as witch-like a figure 
as ever went to a wizard meeting in the forest with Sep- 
timius's ancestor, — appeared at the door of the room, 
aroused from her bed, and shaking her finger at him. 

" Septimius," said she, " you keep me awake, and you 
will ruin your eyes, and turn your head, if you study till 
midnight in this manner. You '11 never live to be a min- 
ister, if this is the way you go on." 

" Well, well. Aunt Keziah," said Septimius, covering 
his manuscript with a book, " 1 am just going to bed 
now." 

"Good night, then," said the old woman ; "and God 
bless your labors." 

Strangely enough, a glance at the manuscript, as he 



64} SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

hid it from the old woman, had seemed to Septimius to 
reveal another sentence, of which he had imperfectly 
caught the purport ; and when she had gone, he in vain 
sought the place, and vainly, too, endeavored to recall 
the meaning of what he had read. Doubtless his fancy 
exaggerated the importance of the sentence, and he felt 
as if it might have vanished from the book forever. In 
fact, the unfortunate young man, excited and tossed to 
and fro by a variety of unusual impulses, was got into a 
bad way, and was likely enough to go mad, unless the 
balancing portion of his mind proved to be of greater vol- 
ume and effect than as yet appeared to be the case. 

The next morning he was up, bright and early, poring 
over the manuscript with the sharpened wits of the new 
day, peering into its night, into its old, blurred, forgotten 
dream ; and, indeed, he had been dreaming about it, and 
was fully possessed with the idea that, in his dream, he 
had taken up the inscrutable document, and read it off as 
glibly as he would the page of a modern drama, in a 
continual rapture with the deep trutli that it made clear 
to his comprehension, and the lucid way in which it 
evolved the mode in which man might be restored to his 
originally undying state. So strong was the impression, 
that when he unfolded the manuscript, it was with almost 
the belief that the crabbed old handwriting would be plain 
to him. Such did not prove to be the case, however ; so 
far from it, that poor Septimius in vain turned over the 
yellow pages in quest of the one sentence which he 
had been able, or fancied he had been able, to read 
yesterday. The illumination that had brought it out wai 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 65 

now faded, and all was a blur, an inscrutableness, a scrawl 
of unintelligible characters alike. So much did this affect 
him, that he had almost a mind to tear it into a thou- 
sand fragments, and scatter it out of the window to the 
west-wind, that was then blowing past the house ; and if, 
in that summer season, there had been a fire on the 
hearth, it is possible that easy realization of a destructive 
impulse might have incited him to fling the accursed 
scrawl into the hottest of the flames, and thus returned it 
to tlie Devil, who, he suspected, was the original author 
of it. Had he done so, what strange and gloomy pas- 
sages would I have been spared the pain of relating ! 
How different would have been the life of Septimius, — 
a thoughtful preacher of God's word, taking severe but 
conscientious views of man's state and relations, a heavy- 
browed walker and worker on earth, and, finally, a slum- 
berer in an honored grave, with an epitaph beariug testi- 
mony to his great usefulness in his generation. 

But, in the mean time, here was the troublesome day 
passing over him, and pestering, bewildering, and tripping 
him up with its mere sublunary troubles, as the days 
will all of us the moment we try to do anything that we 
flatter ourselves is of a little more importance than others 
are doing. Aunt Keziah tormented him a great while 
about the rich field, just across the road, in front of the 
house, which Septimius had neglected the cultivation of, 
unwilling to spare the time to plough, to plant, to hoe it 
himself, but hired a lazy lout of the village, when he 
might just as well have employed and paid wages to the 
scarecrow which Aunt Keziah dressed out in ancient habili- 
ments, and set up in the midst of the corn. Then came 

B 



66 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

an old codger from the village, talking to Septimius about 
the war, — a theme of which he was weary : telling the 
rumor of skirmishes that the next day would prove to be 
false, of battles that were immediately to take place, of 
encounters with the enemy in which our side showed the 
valor of twenty-fold heroes, but had to retreat ; babbling 
about shells and mortars, battalions, manoeuvres, angles, 
fascines, and other items of military art; for war had 
filled the whole brain of the people, and enveloped the 
whole thought of man in a mist of gunpowder. 

In this way, sitting on his doorstep, or in the very 
study, haunted by such speculations, this wretched old 
man would waste the better part of a summer after- 
noon, while Septimius listened, returning abstracted 
monosyllables, answering amiss, and wishing his per- 
secutor jammed into one of the cannons he talked about, 
and fired off, to end his interminable babble in one roar ; 
[talking] of great officers coming from Erance and other 
countries ; of overwhelming forces from England, to put 
an end to the war at once ; of the unlikelihood that it 
ever should be ended; of its hopelessness; of its cer- 
tainty of a good and speedy end. 

Then came hmping along the lane a disabled soldier, 
begging his way home from the field, which, a little while 
ago, he had sought in the full vigor of rustic health he 
was never to know again ; with whom Septimius had to 
talk, and relieve his wants as far as he could (though not 
from the poor young officer's deposit of English gold), 
and send him on his way. 

Then came the minister, to talk with his former pupil, 
about whom he had latterly had much meditation, not 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 67 

understanding what mood had taken possession of him ; 
for the minister was a man of insight, and from conver- 
sations with Septimius, as searching as he knew how to 
make them, he had begun to doubt whether he were 
sujficiently sound in faith to adopt the clerical persua- 
sion. Not that he supposed him to be anything like 
a confirmed unbeliever ; but he thought it probable that 
these doubts, these strange, dark, disheartening sugges- 
tions of the Devil, that so surely infect certain tempera- 
ments and measures of intellect, were tormenting poor 
Septimius, and pulling him back from the path in which 
he was capable of doing so much good. So he came 
this afternoon to talk seriously with him, and to advise 
him, if the case were as he supposed, to get for a time 
out of the track of the thought in which he had so long 
been engaged ; to enter into active life ; and by and by, 
when the morbid influences should have been overcome 
by a change of mental and moral religion, he might re- 
turn, fresh and healthy, to his original design. 

" What can I do," asked Septimius, gloomily, " what 
business take up, when the whole laud lies waste and 
idle, except for this war ? " 

" There is the A^ery business, then," said the minister. 
" Do you think God's work is not to be done in the field 
as well as in the pulpit ? You are strong, Septimius, of 
a bold character, and have a mien and bearing that gives 
you a natural command among men. Go to the wars, 
and do a valiant part for your country, and come back 
to your peaceful mission when the enemy has vanished. 
Or you might go as chaplain to a regiment, and use 
either hand in battle, — pray for success before a battle, 



68 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

lielp will it with sword or gun, aud give thanks to God, 
kneeling on the bloody field, at its close. You have 
already stretched one foe on your native soil." 

Septiniius could not but smile within himself at this 
warlike and bloody counsel ; and, joining it with some 
similar exhortations from Aunt Keziah, he was inclined 
to think that women and clergymen are, in matters of 
war, the most uncompromising aud bloodthirsty of the 
community. However, he replied, coolly, that his moral 
impulses and his feelings of duty did not exactly impel 
him in this direction, and that he was of opinion that 
war was a business in which a man could not engage 
with safety to his conscience, unless his conscience actu- 
ally drove him into it ; and that this made all the differ- 
ence between heroic battle and murderous strife. The 
good minister had nothing very effectual to answer to 
this, and took his leave, with a still stronger opinion 
than before that there was something amiss in his pupil's 
mind. 

By this time, this thwarting day had gone on through 
its course of little and great impediments to his pursuit, 
— the discouragements of trifling and earthly business, 
of purely impertinent interruption, of severe and dis- 
heartening opposition from the powerful counteraction 
of different kinds of mind, — until the hour had come at 
which he had arranged to meet Rose Garfield, I am 
afraid the poor thwarted youth did not go to his love- 
tryst in any very amiable mood; but rather, perhaps, 
reflecting how all things earthly and immortal, and love 
among the rest, whichever category, of earth or heaven, 
it may belong to, set themselves against man's progress 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 69 

in any pursuit that lie seeks to devote liimself to. It 
is one struggle, the moment he undertakes such a thing, 
of everything else in the world to impede him. 

However, as it turned out, it was a pleasant and happy 
interview that he had with Rose that afternoon. The 
girl herself was in a happy, tuneful mood, and met him 
with such simphcity,' threw such a light of sweetness 
over his soul, that Septimius almost forgot all the wild 
cares of the day, and walked by her side with a quiet 
fulness of pleasure that was new to him. She recon- 
ciled him, in some secret way, to life as it was, to 
imperfection, to decay ; without any help from her in- 
tellect, but through the influence of her character, she 
seemed, not to solve, but to smooth away, problems that 
troubled him ; merely by being, by womanhood, by sim- 
plicity, she interpreted God's ways to him; she soft- 
ened the stoniuess that was gathering about his heart. 
And so they had a delightful time of talking, and laugh- 
ing, and smelling to flowers ; and when they were part- 
ing, Septimius said to her, — 

"Rose, you have convinced me that this is a most 
happy world, and that Life has its two children, Birth 
and Death, and is bound to prize them equally ; and 
that God is very kind to his earthly children ; and that 
all will go well." 

"And have I convinced you of all this?" replied 
Rose, with a pretty laughter. " It is all true, no doubt, 
but I should not have known how to argue for it. 
But you are very sweet, and have not frightened me 
to-day." 

" Do I ever frighten you then, Rose ? " asked Sep- 



70 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

timius, bending his black brow upon her with a look of 
surprise and displeasure. 

" Yes, sometimes," said Kose, facing him with cour- 
age, and smiling upon the cloud so as to drive it away ; 
" when you frown upon me like that, I am a little afraid 
you will beat me, all in good time." 

"Now," said Septimius, laughing again, "you shall 
have your choice, to be beaten on the spot, or suffer 
another kind of punishment, — which?" 

So saying, he snatched her to him, and strove to kiss 
her, while Rose, laughing and struggling, cried out, 
"The beating! the beating!" But Septimius relented 
not, though it was only Rose's cheek that he succeeded 
in touching. In truth, except for that first one, at the 
moment of their plighted troths, I doubt whether Sep- 
timius ever touched those soft, sweet lips, where the 
smiles dwelt and the little pouts. He now returned to 
his study, aud questioned with himself whether he should 
touch that weary, ugly, yellow, blurred, unintelligible, 
bewitched, mysterious, bullet-penetrated, blood-stained 
manuscript again. There was an undefinable reluctance 
to do so, and at the same time an enticement (irresistible, 
as it proved) drawing him towards it. He yielded, and 
taking it from his desk, in which the precious, fatal treas- 
ure was locked up, he plunged into it again, and this 
time with a certain degree of success. He found the 
line which had before gleamed out, and vanished again, 
and which now started out in strong relief; even as 
when sometimes we see a certain arrangement of stars in 
the heavens, and again lose it, by not seeing its individ- 
ual stars in the same relation as before ; even so, looking 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 71 

at the manuscript in a diiferent way, Septimius saw this 
fragment of a sentence, and saw, moreover, what was 
necessary to give it a certain meaning. " Set the root in 
a grave, and wait for what shall blossom. It will be 
very rich, and full of juice." TIhs was the purport, he 
now felt sure, of the sentence he had lighted upon ; and 
he took it to refer to the mode of producing something 
that was essential to the thing to be concocted. It 
might have only a moral being ; or, as is generally the 
case, the moral and physical truth went hand in hand. 

While Septimius was busying himself in this way, the 
summer advanced, and with it there appeared a new 
character, making her way into our pages. This was a 
slender and pale girl, whom Septimius was once startled 
to find, when he ascended his hill-top, to take his walk 
to and fro upon the accustomed path, which he had now 
worn deep. 

What was stranger, she sat down close beside the 
grave, which none but he and the minister knew to be 
a grave ; that little hillock, which he had levelled a little, 
and had planted with various flowers and shrubs ; which 
the summer had fostered into richness, the poor young 
man below having contributed what he could, and tried 
to render them as beautiful as he might, in remembrance 
of his own beauty. Septimius wished to conceal the fact 
of its being a grave : not that he was tormented with any 
sense that he had done wrong in shooting the young 
man, which had been done in fair battle ; but still it was 
not the pleasantest of thoughts, that he had laid a beau- 
tiful human creature, so fit for the enjoyment of life, there, 
when his own dark brow, his own troubled breast, might 



{'Z SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

better, he could not but acknowledge, have been covered 
up there. [Perhaps there might sometimes be something 
fantastically gay in the language and behavior of the 
giri:\ 

Well; but then, on this flower and shrub-disguised 
grave, sat this unknown form of a girl, with a slender, 
pallid, melancholy grace about her, simply dressed in 
a dark attire, which she drew loosely about her. At first 
glimpse, Septimius fancied that it might be Rose ; but it 
needed only a glance to undeceive him ; her figure was 
of another character from the vigorous, though slight and 
elastic beauty of Rose ; this was a drooping grace, and 
when he came near enough to see her face, he saw that 
those large, dark, melancholy eyes, with which she had 
looked at him, had never met his gaze before. 

" Good morrow, fair maiden," said Septimius, with 
such courtesy as he knew how to use (which, to say 
truth, was of a rustic order, his way of life having 
brought him little into female society). "There is a 
nice air here on the hill-top, this sultry morning below 
tlie hill ! " 

As he spoke, he continued to look wonderingly at the 
strange maiden, half fancying that she might be some- 
thing that had grown up out of the grave ; so unex- 
pected she was, so simply unlike anything that had 
before come there. 

The girl did not speak to him, but as she sat by the 
grave she kept weeding out the little white blades of 
faded autumn grass and yellow pine-spikes, peermg into 
the soil as if to see what it was all made of, and every- 
thing that was growing there; and in truth, whetlier by 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 73 

Septimius's care or no, there seemed to be several kinds 
of flowers, — those little asters that abound everywhere, 
and golden flowers, such as autumn supplies with abun- 
dance. She seemed to be in quest of something, and 
several times plucked a leaf and examined it carefully ; 
then threw it down again, and shook her head. At last 
she lifted up her pale face, and, fixing her eyes quietly on 
Septimius, spoke : " It is not here ! " 

A very sweet voice it was, — plaintive, low, — and she 
spoke to Septimius as if she were familiar with him, and 
had something to do with him. He M^as greatly inter- 
ested, not being able to imagine wlio the strange girl 
was, or whence she came, or what, of all things, could be 
her reason for coming and sitting down by this grave, 
and apparently botanizing upon it, in quest of some par- 
ticular plant. 

" Are you in search of flowers ? " asked Septimius. 
" This is but a barren spot for them, and this is not a 
good season. In the meadows, and along the margin of 
tlie watercourses, you might find the fringed gentian at 
this time. In the woods there are several pretty flowers, 
— the side-saddle flower, the anemone; violets are plen- 
tiful in spring, and make the whole hillside blue. But 
this hill-top, with its soil strewn over a heap of pebble- 
stones, is no place for flowers." 

"The soil is fit," sai(l the maiden, "but the flower has 
not sprung up." 

"What flower do you speak of? " asked Septimius. 

" One that is not here," said the pale girl. " No mat- 
ter. I will look for it again next spring." 

" Do you, then, dwell hereabout ? " inquired Septimius. 
4 



74 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

" Surely," said the maiden, with a look of surprise ; 
" where else should I dwell ? My home is on this hill- 
top." 

It not a little startled Septimius, as may be supposed, 
to find his paternal inheritance, of which lie and his 
forefathers had been the only owners since the world 
began (for they held it by an Indian deed), claimed as a 
home and abiding-place by this fair, pale, strange-acting 
maiden, who spoke as if she had as much right there as 
if she had grown up out of the soil like one of the wild, 
indigenous flowers which she had been gazing at and 
handling. However that might be, the maiden seemed 
now about to depart, rising, giving a farewell touch or 
two to the little verdant hillock, which looked much the 
neater for her ministrations. 

" Are you going ? " said Septimius, looking at her in 
wonder. 

" Por a time," said she. 

"And shall I see you again ? " asked he. 

" Surely," said the maiden, " this is my walk, along 
the brow of the hill." 

It again smote Septimius with a strange thrill of sur- 
prise to find the walk which he himself had made, tread- 
ing it, and smoothing it, and beating it down with the 
pressure of his continual feet, from the time when the 
tufted grass made the sides all uneven, until now, when 
it was such a pathway as you may see through a wood, 
or over a field, where many feet pass every day, — to 
find this track and exemplification of his own secret 
thoughts and plans and emotions, this writing of his 
body, impelled by the struggle and movement of his soid 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 75 

claimed as her own by a strange girl with melancholy 
eyes and voice, who seemed to have such a sad familiarity 
with him, 

" You are welcome to come here," said he, endeavor- 
ing at least to keep such liold on his own property as 
was implied in making a hospitable surrender of it to 
another. 

" Yes," said the girl, " a person should alM^ays be wel- 
come to his own." 

A faint smile seemed to pass over her face as she said 
this, vanishing, however, immediately into the melan- 
choly of her usual expression. She went along Septim- 
ius's path, while he stood gazing at her till she reached 
the brow where it sloped towards Robert Hagburn's 
house ; then she turned, and seemed to wave a slight 
farewell towards the young man, and began to descend. 
When her figure had entirely sunk behind the brow of 
the hill, Septimius slowly followed along the ridge, mean- 
ing to watch from that elevated station the course she 
would take ; although, indeed, he would not have been 
surprised if he had seen nothing, no trace of her in the 
whole nearness or distance ; in short, if she had been a 
freak, an illusion, of a hard-working mind that had put 
itself ajar by deeply brooding on abstruse matters, an illu- 
sion of eyes that he had tried too much by poring over 
the inscrutable manuscript, and of intellect that was mys- 
tified and bewildered by trying to grasp things that could 
not be grasped. A thing of witchcraft, a sort of fuugus- 
growth out of the grave, an unsubstantiality altogether ; 
although, certainly, she had weeded the grave with bodily 
fins-ers, at all events. Still he had so much of the heredi- 



76 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

tary mysticism of liis race in him, that he might have 
held her supernatural, only that on reaching the brow of 
the hill he saw her feet approach the dwellmg of Robert 
Hagburn's mother, who, moreover, appeared at the thresh- 
old beckoning her to come, with a motherly, hospitable 
air, that denoted she knew the strange girl, and recog- 
nized her as human. 

It did not lessen Septimius's surprise, however, to 
think that such a singular being was established in the 
neighborhood without his knowledge ; considered as a 
real occurrence of this world, it seemed even more un- 
accountable than if it had been a thing of ghostology and 
witchcraft. Continually through the day the incident 
kept introducing its recollection among his thoughts and 
studies ; continually, as he paced along his path, this form 
seemed to hurry along by his side on the track that she 
had claimed for her own, and he thought of her singular 
threat or promise, whichever it were to be held, that he 
sliould have a companion there in future. In the decHne 
of the day, when he met the schoolmistress coming home 
from her little seminary, he snatched the first opportunity 
to mention the apparition of the morning, and ask Rose 
if she knew anything of her. 

" Very little," said Rose, " but she is flesh and blood, 
of that you may be quite sure. She is a girl who has 
been shut up in Boston by the siege ; perliaps a daughter 
of one of the British officers, and her health being frail, 
she requires better air than they have there, and so per- 
mission was got for her, from General Washington, to 
come and live in the country ; as any one may see, our 
liberties have nothing to fear from this poor brain-stricken 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 77 

girl. And Robert Hagburn, having to bring a message 
i'roni camp to the selectmen here, had it in charge to 
bring the girl, whom his mother has taken to board." 

" Then the poor thing is crazy ? " asked Septimius. 

"A little brain-touched, that is all," replied Rose, 
" owing to some grief that she has had ; but she is quite 
harmless, Robert was told to say, and needs little or no 
watching, and will get a kind of fantastic happiness for 
herself, if only she is allowed to ramble about at her 
pleasure. If thwarted, she might be very wild and mis- 
erable." 

" Have you spoken with her ? " asked Septimius. 

"A word or two this morning, as I was going to my 
school," said Rose. " She took me by the hand, and 
smiled, and said we would be friends, and that I should 
show her where the flowers grew ; for that she had a lit- 
tle spot of her own that she wanted to plant with them. 
And she asked me if the Sanguima sanguiniasima grew 
hereabout. I should not have taken her to be ailing 
in her wits, only for a kind of free-spokenness and famil- 
iarity, as if we had been acquainted a long while ; or as if 
she had lived in some country where there are no forms 
and impediments in people's getting acquainted." 

"Did you like her ? " inquired Septimius. 

" Yes ; almost loved her at first sight," answered Rose, 
" and I hope may do her some little good, poor thing, 
being of her own age, and the only companion, here- 
abouts, whom she is likely to find. But she has been 
well educated, and is a lady, that is easy to see." 

" It is very strange," said Septimius, " but I fear I 
shall be a good deal interrupted in my thoughts and 



78 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

studies, if she insists on haunting my hill-top as much 
as she tells me. My meditations are perhaps of a little 
too much importance to be shoved aside for the sake of 
gratifying a crazy girl's fantasies." 

" Ah, that is a hard thing to say ! " exclaimed Rose, 
shocked at her lover's cold egotism, though not giving 
it that title. " Let the poor thing glide quietly along in 
the path, though it be yours. Perhaps, after a while, 
she will help your thoughts." 

" My thoughts," said Septimius, " are of a kind that 
can have no help from any one ; if from any, it would 
only be from some wise, long-studied, and experienced 
scientific man, who could enlighten me as to the bases 
and foundation of things, as to mystic writings, as to 
chemical elements, as to the mysteries of language, as 
to the principles and system on which we were created. 
Methinks these are not to be taught me by a girl touched 
in the wits." 

"I fear," replied Rose Garfield with gravity, and 
drawing imperceptibly apart from him, " that no woman 
can help you much. You despise woman's thought, and 
have no need of her affection." 

Septimius said something soft and sweet, and in a 
measure true, in regard to the necessity he felt for the 
affection and sympathy of one woman at least — the one 
now by his side — to keep his life warm and to make 
the empty chambers of his heart comfortable. But even 
while he spoke, there was something that dragged upon 
his tongue ; for he felt that the solitary pursuit in which 
he was engaged carried him apart from the sympatliy of 
which he spoke, and that he was concentrating his efforts 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 79 

and interest entirely upon himself, and that the more he 
succeeded the more remotely he should be carried away, 
and that his final triumph would be the complete seclu- 
sion of himself from all that breathed, — the converting 
him, from an interested actor, into a cold and discon- 
nected spectator of all mankind's warm and sympathetic 
life. So, as it turned out, this interview with Rose was 
one of those in which, coming no one knows from 
whence, a nameless cloud springs up between two lov- 
ers, and keeps them apart from one another by a cold, 
sullen spell. Usually, however, it requires only one 
word, spoken out of the heart, to break that spell, and 
compel the invisible, unsympathetic medium which the 
enemy of love has stretched cunningly between them, to 
vanish, and let them come closer together than ever ; but, 
in this case, it might be that the love was the illusive state, 
and the estrangement the real truth, the disenchanted 
verity. At all events, when the feeling passed away, in 
Rose's heart there was no reaction, no warmer love, as 
is generally the case. As for Septimius, he had other 
things to think about, and when he next met Rose Gar- 
field, had forgotten that he had been sensible of a little 
wounded feeling, on her part, at parting. 

By dint of continued poring over the manuscript, Sep- 
timius now began to comprehend that it was written in 
a singular mixture of Latin and ancient English, with 
constantly recurring paragraphs of what he was con- 
vinced was a mystic writing ; and these recurring pas- 
sages of complete unintelligibility seemed to be necessary 
to the proper understanding of any part of the document. 
What was discoverable was quaint, curious, but thwart- 



80 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

ing and perplexing, because it seemed to imply some 
very great purpose, only to be brought out by what was 
hidden, 

Septimius had read, in the old college library during 
his pupilage, a work on ciphers and cryptic writing, but 
being drawn to it only by his curiosity respecting what- 
ever was hidden, and not expecting ever to use his 
knowledge, he had obtained only the barest idea of what 
was necessary to the deciphering a secret passage. 
Judging by what he could pick out, he would have 
thought the whole essay was upon the moral conduct ; 
all parts of that he could make out seeming to refer to a 
certain ascetic rule of life ; to denial of pleasures ; these 
topics being repeated and insisted on everywhere, al- 
though without any discoverable reference to religious 
or moral motives ; and always when the author seemed 
verging towards a definite purpose, he took refuge in his 
cipher. Yet withal, imperfectly (or not at all, rather) 
as Septimius could comprehend its purport, this strange 
writing had a mystic influence, that wrought upon his 
imagination, and with the late singular incidents of his 
life, his continual thought on this one subject, his walk 
on the hill-top, lonely, or only interrupted by the pale 
shadow of a girl, combined to set him outside of the 
living world. Rose Garfield perceived it, knew and felt 
that he was gliding away from her, and met him with a 
reserve which she could not overcome. 

It was a pity that his early friend, Robert Hagburn, 
could not at present have any influence over him, having 
now regularly joined the Continental Army, and being 
engaged in the expedition of Arnold against Quebec. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTOIir. 81 

Indeed, tliis war, in wliicli tlie country was so earnestly 
and enthusiastically engaged, had perhaps an influence 
on Septimius's state of mind, for it put everybody into 
an exaggerated and unnatural state, united enthusiasms 
of all sorts, heightened everybody either into its- own 
heroism or into the peculiar madness to which each 
person was inclined; and Septimius walked so much 
the more wildly on his lonely course, because the people 
were going enthusiastically on another. In times of 
revolution and public disturbance all absurdities are 
more unrestrained ; the measure of calm sense, the 
habits, the orderly decency, are partially lost. More 
people become insane, I should suppose ; offences agahist 
public morality, female license, are more numerous; 
suicides, murders, all ungovernable outbreaks of men's 
thoughts, embodying themselves in wild acts, take place 
more frequently, and with less horror to the lookers-on. 
So [with] Septimius ; there was not, as there would have 
been at an ordinary time, the same cabuness and truth 
in the public observation, scrutinizing everything with 
its keen criticism, in that time of seething opinions and 
overturned principles; a new time was coming, and 
Septimius's phase of novelty attracted less attention so 
far as it was known. 

So he continued to brood over the manuscript in his 
study, and to hide it under lock and key in a recess of 
the wall, as if it were a secret of murder ; to walk, toe, 
on his hill-top, where at sunset always came the pale, 
crazy maiden, who still seemed to watch the little hillock 
with a pertinacious care that was strange to Septimius. 
By and by came the winter and the deep snows ; and 
4* F 



82 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

even then, unwilling to give up his habitual place of ex- 
ercise, the monotonousness of which promoted his wish 
to keep before his mind one subject of thought, Septimius 
wore a path through the snow, and still walked there. 
Here, however, he lost for a time the companionship of 
the girl ; for when the first snow came, she shivered, and 
looked at its white heap over the hillock, and said to Sep- 
timius, " I will look for it again in spring." 

[Septimius is at the point of despair for want of a guide 
in his studies.'] 

The winter swept over, and spring was just beginning 
to spread its green flush over the more favored exposures 
of the landscape, although on the north side of stone- 
walls, and the northern nooks of hills, there were still 
the remnants of snow-drifts. Septimius's hill-top, which 
was of a soil which quickly rid itself of moisture, now 
began to be a genial place of resort to him, and he was 
one morning taking his walk there, meditating upon the 
still insurmountable difficulties which interposed them- 
selves against the interpretation of the manuscript, yet 
feeling the new gush of spring bring hope to him, and the 
energy and elasticity for new effort. Thus pacing to and 
fro, he was surprised, as he turned at the extremity of 
his walk, to see a figure advancing towards him; not 
that of the pale maiden whom he was accustomed to see 
there, but a figure as widely different as possible. [He 
sees a spider dangling from his web, and examines him 
oiiinutelj/.'] It was that of a short, broad, somewhat el- 
derly man, dressed in a surtout that had a half-military 
air, the cocked hat of the period, well worn, and having 
a fresher spot in it, whence, perhaps, a cockade had been 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 83 

recently taken off; and this personage carried a well 
blackened German pipe in liis band, whicb, as be walked, 
be applied to his lips, and puffed out volumes of smoke, 
filling the pleasant western breeze with the fragrance of 
some excellent Virginia. He came slowly along, and Sep- 
timius, slackening his pace a little, came as slowly to meet 
him, feeling somewhat indignant, to be sure, that any- 
body should intrude on his sacred hill ; until at last they 
met, as it happened, close by the memorable little hillock, 
on which the grass and flower-leaves also had begun to 
sprout. The stranger looked keenly at Septimius, made 
a careless salute by putting his hand up, and took the 
pipe from his mouth. 

" Mr. Septimius Pelton, I suppose ? " said he. 

" That is my nam.e," replied Septimius. 

" I am Doctor Jabez Portsoaken," said the stranger, 
" late surgeon of his Majesty's sixteenth regiment, which 
I quitted when his Majesty's army quitted Boston, being 
desirous of trying my fortunes in your country, and giv- 
ing the people the benefit of my scientific knowledge ; 
also to practise some new modes of medical science, 
which I could not so well do in the army." 

" I think you are quite right, Doctor Jabez Portsoak- 
en," said Septimius, a little confused and bewildered, so 
unused had he become to the society of strangers. 

" And as to you, sir," said the doctor, who had a 
very rough, abrupt way of speaking, " I have to thank 
you for a favor done me." 

" Have you, sir ? " said Septimius, who was quite sure 
that he had never seen the doctor's uncouth figure 
before. 



84 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

" 0, ay, me," said the doctor, puffing coolly, — " me, 
in the person of my niece, a sickly, poor, nervous little 
thing, who is very fond of walking on your hill-top, and 
whom you do not send away." 

" You are the uncle of Sib^d Dacy ? " said Septimius. 

" Even so, her mother's brother," said the doctor, with 
a grotesque bow. " So, being on a visit, the first that 
the siege allowed me to pay, to see how the girl was get- 
ting on, I take the opportunity to pay my respects to 
you ; the more that I understand you to be a young 
man of some learning, and it is not often that one meets 
with such in this country." 

" No," said Septimius, abruptly, for indeed he had half 
a suspicion that this queer Doctor Portsoaken was not 
altogether sincere, — that, in short, he was making game 
of him. " You have been misinformed. I know noth- 
ing whatever that is worth knowing." 

" Oho ! " said the doctor, with a long puff of smoke 
out of his pipe. " If you are convinced of that, you are 
one of the wisest men I have met with, young as you are. 
I must have been twice your age before I got so far ; 
and even now, I am sometimes fool enough to doubt the 
only thing 1 was ever sure of knowing. But come, you 
make me only the more earnest to collogue with you. If 
we put both our shortcomings together, they may make 
up an item of positive knowledge." 

"What use can one make of abortive thonghts?" 
said Septimius. 

"Do your speculations take a scientific turn ? " said 
Doctor Portsoaken. "There I can meet you with as 
much false knowledge and empiricism as you can bring 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 85 

for the life of you. Have you ever tried to study 
spiders ? — there is my strong point novr ! I have hung 
my vi^hole interest in life on a spider's web." 

" I know nothing of them, sir," said Septimius, " ex- 
cept to crush them when I see them running across the 
floor, or to brush away the festoons of their webs when 
they have chanced to escape my Aunt Keziah's broom." 

" Crush them ! Brush away their webs ! " cried the 
doctor, apparently in a rage, and shakuig his pipe at 
Septimius. " Sir, it is sacrilege ! Yes, it is worse than 
murder. Every thread of a spider's web is worth more 
than a thread of gold ; and before twenty years are 
passed, a housemaid will be beaten to death with her 
own broomstick if she disturbs one of these sacred 
animals. But, come again. Shall we talk of botany, 
the virtues of herbs ? " 

" My Aunt Keziah should meet you there, doctor," 
said Septimius. " She has a native and original ac- 
quaintance with their virtues, and can save and kill with 
any of the faculty. As for myself, my studies have not 
turned that way." 

" They ought ! they ought ! " said the doctor, lookiug 
meaningly at him. "The whole thing lies in the blos- 
som of an herb. Now, you ought to begin with what 
lies about you ; on this little hillock, for instance " ; * 
and looking at the grave beside which they were stand- 
ing, he gave it a kick which went to Septimius's heart, 
there seemed to be such a spite and scorn in it. " On 
this hillock I see some specimens of plants which would 
be worth your looking at." 

Bending down towards the grave as he spoke, he 



86 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

seemed to give closer attention to wliat lie saw there ; 
keeping in his stooping position till his face began to 
get a purple aspect, for the erudite doctor was of that 
make of man who has to be kept right side uppermost 
with care. At length he raised himself, muttering, 
" Very curious ! very curious ! " 

" Do you see anything remarkable there ? " asked 
Septimius, with some interest. 

" Yes," said the doctor, bluntly. " No matter what ! 
The time will come when you may like to know it." 

" Will you come with ma to my residence at the foot 
of the hill, Doctor Portsoaken ? " asked Septimius. " I 
am not a learned man, and have little or no title to con- 
verse with one, except a sincere desire to be wiser than 
I am. If you can be moved on such terms to give me 
your companionship, I shall be thankful." 

" Sir, I am with you," said Doctor Portsoaken. " I 
will tell you what I know, in the sure belief (for I will 
be frank with you) that it will add to the amount of 
dangerous folly now in your mind, and help you on the 
way to ruin. Take your choice, therefore, whether to 
know me further or not." 

"I neither shrink nor fear, — neither hope much," 
said Septimius, quietly. " Anything that you can com- 
municate — if anything you can — I shall fearlessly re- 
ceive, and return you such thanks as it may be found to 
deserve." 

So saying, he led the way down the hill, by the steep 
path that descended abruptly upon the rear of his bare 
and unadorned little dwelling ; the doctor following with 
much foul language (for he had a terrible habit of swear- 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 87 

ing) at the difficulties of tlie way, to wliicli his short legs 
were ill adapted. Aunt Keziah met them at the door, 
and looked sharply at the doctor, who returned the gaze 
with at least as much keenness, muttering between his 
teeth, as he did so ; and to say the truth. Aunt Keziah 
was as worthy of being sworn at as any woman could 
well be, for whatever she might have been in her younger 
days, she was at this time as strange a mixture of an 
Indian squaw and herb doctress, with the crabbed old 
maid, and a mingling of the witch-aspect running through 
all, as could well be imagined ; and she had a handker- 
chief over her head, and she was of hue a dusky yellow, 
and she looked very cross. As Septimius ushered the 
doctor into his study, and was about to follow him. Aunt 
Keziah drew him back. 

" Septimius, who is this you have brought here ? " 
asked she. 

"A man I have met on the hill," answered her 
nephew; "a Doctor Portsoaken he calls himself, from 
the old country. He says he has knowledge of herbs 
and other mysteries ; in your own line, it may be. If 
you want to talk witli him, give the man his dinner, 
and find out what there is in him." 

" And what do you want of him yourself, Septimius ? "| 
asked she. 

" I ? Nothing ! — that is to say, I expect nothing," 
said Septimius. " But I am astray, seeking everywhere, 
and so I reject no hint, no promise, no faintest possi- 
bility of aid that I may find anywhere. I judge this man 
to be a quack, but 1 judge the same of the most learned 
man of his profession, or any other; and there is a 



88 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

roughness about this man, that may indicate a little more 
knowledge than if he were smoother. So, as he threw 
himself in my way, I take him in." 

"A grim, ugly-looking old wretch as ever I saw," 
muttered Aunt Keziah, " Well, he shall have his dm- 
ner ; and if he likes to talk about yarb-dishes, I 'm with 
him," 

So Septimius followed the doctor into his study, where 
he found him with the sword in his hand, which he had 
taken from over the mantel-piece, and was holding it 
drawn, examining the hilt and blade with great minute- 
ness ; the hilt being wrought in openwork, with certain 
heraldic devices, doubtless belonging to the family of its 
former wearer. 

" I have seen this weapon before," said the doctor. 

"It may well be," said Septimius. "It was once 
worn by a person who served in the army of your 
king." 

" And you took it from him ? " said the doctor. 

" If I did, it was in no way that I need be ashamed of, 
or afraid to tell, though I choose rather not to speak of 
it," answered Septimius. 

" Have you, then, no desire nor interest to know 
the family, the personal history, the prospects, of him 
who once wore this sword, and who will never draw 
sword again ? " inquired Doctor Portsoaken. " Poor 
Cyril Norton ! There was a singular story attached to 
that young man, sir, and a singular mystery he carried 
about with him, the end of which, perhaps is not yet." 

Septimius would have been, indeed, well enough pleased 
to learn the mystery which he himself had seen that 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 89 

there was about the man whom he slew; but he was 
afraid that some question might be thereby started about 
the secret document that he had kept possession of; and 
he therefore would have wished to avoid the whole sub- 
ject. 

" I cannot be supposed to take much interest in Eng- 
lish family history. It is a hundred and fifty years, at 
least, since my own family ceased to be English," he an- 
SM^ered. " I care more for the present and future than for 
the past." 

" It is all one," said the doctor, sitting down, taking 
out a pinch of tobacco, and refilling his pipe. 

It is unnecessary to follow up the description of the 
visit of the eccentric doctor through the day. Suffice it 
to say that there was a sort of charm, or rather fascina- 
tion, about the uncouth old fellow, in spite of his strange 
ways ; in spite of his constant pufiing of tobacco ; and in 
spite, too, of a constant imbibing of strong liquor, which 
he made inquiries ^for, and of which the best that could be 
produced was a certain decoction, infusion, or distillation, 
pertaining to Aunt Keziah, and of which the basis was 
rum, be it said, done up with certain bitter herbs of the 
old lady's own gathering, at proper times of the moon, 
and which was a well-known drink to all who were favored 
with Aunt Keziah's friendship ; though there was a story 
that it was the very drink which used to be passed round 
at witch-meetings, being brewed from the Devil's own 
recipe. And, in truth, judging from the taste (for I 
once took a sip of a draught prepared from the same in- 
gredients, and in the same way), I should think this hell- 
ish origin might be the veritable one. • 



90 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

[" / thought,^'' quoth the doctor, " I could drink any- 
thing, but — "] 

But the valiant doctor sipped, and sipped again, and 
said with great blasphemy that it was the real stuff, and 
only needed henbane to make it perfect. Then, taking 
from his pocket a good-sized leathern-covered flask, with 
a silver lip fastened on the muzzle, he offered it to Sep- 
timius, who declined, and to Aunt Keziah, who preferred 
her own decoction, and then drank it off himself, with a 
loud smack of satisfaction, declaring it to be infernally 
good brandy. 

Well, after this Septimius and he talked ; and 1 know 
not how it was, but there was a great deal of imagination 
in this queer man, whether a bodily or spiritual influence 
it might be hard to say. On the other hand, Septimius 
had for a long while held little intercourse with men ; 
none whatever with men who could comprehend him ; the 
doctor, too, seemed to bring the discourse singularly in 
apposition with what his host was continually thinking 
about, for he conversed on occult matters, on people who 
had had the art of living long, and had only died at last 
by accident, on the powers and qualities of common herbs, 
which he believed to be so great, that all around our feet — 
growing in the wild forest, afar from man, or following 
the footsteps of man wherever he fixes his residence, 
across seas, from the old homesteads whence he migrated, 
following him everywhere, and offering themselves sed- 
ulously and continually to his notice, while he only plucks 
them away from the comparatively worthless things 
which he cultivates, and flings them aside, blaspheming 
at them because Providence has sown them so thickly 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 91 

— grow what we call weeds, only because all tlie gener- 
ations, from the beginning of time till now, have failed 
to discover their wondrous virtues, potent for the curiug 
of all diseases, potent for procuring length of days. 

" Everything good," said the doctor, drinking another 
dram of brandy, " lies right at our feet, and all we need 
is to gather it up." 

" That 's true," quoth Keziah, taking just a little sup 
of her heUish preparation ; " these herbs were all gath- 
ered within a hundred yards of this very spot, though it 
took a wise woman to find out their virtues," 

The old woman went off about her household duties, 
and then it was that Septimius submitted to the doctor 
the list of herbs which he had picked out of the old docu- 
ment, asking him, as something apposite to the subject of 
their discourse, whether he was acquainted with them, 
for most of them had very queer names, some in Latin, 
some in English. 

The bluff doctor put on his spectacles, and looked over 
the slip of yellow and worn paper scrutinizingly, puffing 
tobacco-smoke upon it in great volumes, as if thereby to 
make its hidden purport come out ; he mumbled to him- 
self, he took another sip from his flask ; and then, putting 
it down on the table, appeared to meditate. 

" This infernal old document," said he, at length, " is 
one that I have never seen before, yet heard of, neverthe- 
less ; for it was my folly in youth (and whether I am any 
wiser now is more than I take upon me to say, but it was 
my folly then) to be in quest of certain kinds of secret 
knowledge, which the fathers of science thought attainable. 
Now, in several quarters, amongst people with whom my 



9'Z SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

pursuits brought me in contact, I heard of a certain 
recipe which had been lost for a generation or two, but 
which, if it could be recovered, would prove to have the 
true life-giving potency in it. It is said that the ancestor 
of a great old family in England was in possession of this 
secret, being a man of science, and the friend of Friar 
Bacon, who was said to have concocted it himself, partly 
from the precepts of his master, partly from his own ex- 
periments, and it is thought he might have been living to 
this day, if he had not unluckily been killed in the wars 
of the Roses ; for you know no recipe for long life would 
be proof against an old English arrow, or a leaden bullet 
from one of our own firelocks." 

" And what has been the history of the thing after his 
death ? " asked Septimius. 

" It was supposed to be preserved in the family," said 
the doctor, " and it has always been said, that the head 
and eldest son of that family had it at his option to live 
forever, if he could only make up his mind to it. But 
seemingly there were difficulties in the way. There was 
probably a certain diet and regimen to be observed, cer- 
tain strict rules of life to be kept, a certain asceticism to 
be imposed on the person, which was not quite agreeable 
to young men ; and after the period of youth was passed, 
the human frame became incapable of being regenerated 
from the seeds of decay and death, which, by that time, 
had become strongly developed in it. In short, while 
young, the possessor of the secret found the terms of im- 
mortal life too hard to be accepted, since it implied the 
giving up of most of the things that made life* desirable 
in his view : and when he came to a more reasonable 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 93 

mind, it was too late. And so, iu all the generations 
since Friar Bacon's time, the Nortons have been born, 
and enjoyed their young days and worried through their 
manhood, and tottered through their old age (unless 
taken off sooner by sword, arrow, ball, fever, or what 
not), and died in their beds, Uke men that had no such 
option ; and so this old yellow paper has done not the 
least good to any mortal. Neither do I see how it can 
do any good to you, since you know not the rules, moral 
or dietetic, that are essential to its effect. But how did 
you come by it ? " 

"It matters not how," said Septimius, gloomily. 
" Enough that I am its rightful possessor and inheritor. 
Can you read these old characters?" 

"Most of them," said the doctor; "but let me tell 
you, my young friend, I have no faith whatever in this 
secret ; and, having meddled with such things myself, I 
ought to know. The old physicians and chemists had 
strange ideas of the virtues of plants, drugs, and min- 
erals, and equally strange fancies as to the way of get- 
ting those virtues into action. They would throw a 
hundred different potencies into a caldron together, and 
put them on the fire, and expect to brew a potency con- 
taining all their potencies, and having a different virtue 
of its own. Whereas, the most likely result would be 
that they would counteract one another, and the concoc- 
tion be of no virtue at all ; or else some more powerful 
ingredient would tincture the whole." 

He read the paper again, and continued : — 

"I see nothing else so remarkable in this recipe, as 
that it is chiefly made up of some of the commonest 



9i SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

things that grow ; plants that you set your foot upon at 
your very threshold, in your garden, in your wood-walks, 
wherever you go. I doubt not old Aunt Keziah knows 
them, and very likely she has brewed them up in that 
hell-drink, the remembrance of which is still rankling in 
my stomach. I thought I had swallowed the Devil him- 
self, whom the old woman had been boiling down. It 
would be curious enough if the hideous decoction was 
the same as old Eriar Bacon and his acolyte discovered 
by their science ! One ingredient, however, one of those 
plants, I scarcely think the old lady can have put into her 
pot of Devil's elixir ; for it is a rare plant, that does not 
grow in these parts." 

"And what is that ? " asked Septimius. 

^' Sanguinea sanguinissima," sdldi the doctor; "it has 
no vulgar name ; but it produces a very beautiful flower, 
which I have never seen, though some seeds of it were 
sent me by a learned friend in Siberia. The others, di- 
vested of their Latin names, are as common as plantain, 
pig- weed, and burdock ; and it stands to reason that, if 
vegetable Nature has any such wonderfully efficacious 
medicine in store for men, and means them to use it, she 
would have strewn it everywhere plentifully within their 
reach." 

" But, after all, it would be a mockery on the old 
dame's part," said the young man, somewhat bitterly, 
" since she would thus hold the desired thing seemingly 
within our reach ; but because she never tells us how to 
prepare and obtain its efficacy, we miss it just as much as 
if all the ingredients were hidden from sight and knowl- 
edge in the centre of the .earth. We are the playthings 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 95 

and fools of Nature, which she amuses herself with 
during our little lifetime, and then breaks for mere sport, 
and laughs in our faces as she does so." 

"Take care, my good fellow," said the doctor, with 
his great coarse laugh. " I rather suspect that you have 
already got beyond the age when the great medicine 
could do you good ; that speech indicates a great tough- 
ness and hardness and bitterness about the heart that 
does not accumulate in our tender years." 

Septimius took little or no notice of the raillery of the 
grim old doctor, but employed the rest of the time in. 
getting as much information as he could out of his guest ; 
and though he could not bring himself to show him the 
precious and sacred manuscript, yet he questioned him as 
closely as possible without betraying his secret, as to the 
modes of finding out cryptic writings. The doctor was 
not without the perception that his dark-browed, keen- 
eyed acquaintance had some purpose not openly avowed 
in all these pertinacious, distinct questions ; he discovered 
a central reference in them all, and perhaps knew that 
Septimius must have in his possession some writing in 
hieroglyphics, cipher, or other secret mode, that con- 
veyed instructions how to operate with the strange recipe 
that he had shown him. 

" You had better trust me fully, my good sir," said he. 
" Not but what I will give you all the aid I can without 
it ; for you have done me a greater benefit than you are 
aware of, beforehand. No — you will not ? Well, if 
you can change your mind, seek me out in Boston, where 
I have seen fit to settle in the practice of my profession, 
and I will serve you according to your folly ; for folly it 
is, I warn you." 



96 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

Nothing else worthy of record is known to have passed 
during tlie doctor's visit ; and in due time he disappeared, 
as it were, in a whiff of tobacco-smoke, leaving an odor 
of brandy and tobacco behmd him, and a traditionary 
memory of a wizard that had been there. Septimius went 
to work with what items of knowledge he had gathered 
from him ; but the interview had at least made him aware 
of one thing, which was, that he must provide himself 
with all possible quantity of scientific knowledge of bot- 
any, and perhaps more extensive knowledge, in order to 
be able to concoct the recipe. It was the fruit of all the 
scientific attainment of the age that produced it (so said 
the legend, which seemed reasonable enough), a great 
philosopher had wrought his learning into it ; and this 
had been attempered, regulated, improved, by the quick, 
bright intellect of his scholar. Perhaps, thought Sep- 
timius, another deep and earnest intelligence added to 
these two may bring the precious recipe to still greater 
perfection. At least it shall be tried. So thinking, he 
gathered together all the books that he could find relat- 
ing to such studies ; he spent one day, moreover, in a 
walk to Cambridge, where he searched the alcoves of the 
college library for such works as it contained ; and bor- 
rowing them from the war-disturbed institution of learn- 
ing, he betook himself homewards, and applied himself to 
the study with an earnestness of zealous application that 
perhaps has been seldom equalled in a study of so quiet 
a character. A month or two of study, with practice 
upon such plants as he found upon his hill-top, and along 
the brook and in other neighboring localities, sulSiced to 
do a great deal for him. In this pursuit he was assisted 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 97 

by Sybil, who proved to have great knowledge in some 
botanical departments, especially among flowers ; and in 
her cold and quiet way, she met him on this subject and 
gUded by his side, as she had done so long, a companion, 
a daily observer and observed of him, mixing herself up 
with his pursuits, as if she were an attendant sprite upon 
him. 

But this pale girl was not the only associate of his 
studies, the only instructress, whom Septimius found. 
The observation which Doctor Portsoaken made about 
the fantastic possibility that Aunt Keziah might have 
inherited the same recipe from her Indian ancestry 
which had been struck out by the science of Friar Bacon 
and his pupil had not failed to impress Septimius, and 
to remain on his memory. So, not long after the doc- 
tor's departure, the young man took occasion one even- 
ing to say to his aunt that he thought his stomach was 
a little out of order with too much application, and that 
perhaps she could give him some herb-drink or other 
that would be good for him. 

" That I can, Seppy, my darling," said the old woman, 
" and I 'm glad you have the sense to ask for it at 
last. Here it is in this bottle ; and though that foolish, 
blaspheming doctor turned up his old brandy nose at 
it, I '11 drink with him any day and come off better than 
he." 

So saying, she took out of the closet her brown jug, 
stopped with a cork that had a rag twisted round it to 
make it tighter, filled a mug half full of the concoction, 
and set it on the table before Septimius. 

" There, child, smell of that ; the smell merely will do 
5 G 



98 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

you good ; but drink it down, and you '11 live tlie longer 
for it." 

" Indeed, Aunt Keziah, is that so ? " asked Septimius, 
a little startled by a recommendation which in some meas- 
ure tallied with what he wanted in a medicine. " That 's 
a good quality." 

He looked into the mug, and saw a turbid, yellow 
concoction, not at all attractive to the eye ; he smelt of 
it, and was partly of opinion that Aunt Keziah had 
mixed a certain unfragrant vegetable, called skunk- 
cabbage, with the other ingredients of her witch-drink. 
He tasted it ; not a mere sip, but a good, genuine gulp, 
being determined to have real proof of what the stuff 
was in all respects. The draught seemed at first to 
burn in his mouth, unaccustomed to any drink but 
water, and to go scorching all the way down into his 
stomach, making him sensible of the depth of his in- 
wards by a track of fire, far, far down ; and then, worse 
than the fire, came a taste of hideous bitterness and 
nauseousness, which he had not previously conceived to 
exist, and which threatened to stir up his bowels into 
utter revolt ; but knowing Aunt Keziah's touchiness 
with regard to this concoction, and how sacred she held 
it, he made an effort of real heroism, squelched down 
his agony, and kept his face quiet, with the exception of 
one strong convulsion, which he allowed to twist across 
it for the sake of saving his life. 

" It tastes as if it might have great potency in it, Aunt 
Keziah," said this unfortunate young man ; " I wish you 
would tell me what it is made of, and how you brew it ; 
for I have observed you are very strict and secret about- 
it." 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 99 

" Alia ! you have seen that, have you ? " said Aunt 
Keziah, taking a sip of her beloved liquid, and grinning 
at him with a face and eyes as yellow as that she was 
drmking. In fact the idea struck him, that in temper, 
and all appreciable qualities, Aunt Keziah was a good 
deal like this drink of hers, having pi-obably become satu- 
rated by them while she drank of it. And then, having 
drunk, she gloated over it, and tasted, and smelt of the 
cup of this hellish wine, as a wine-bibber does of that 
which is most fragrant and delicate. " And you want to 
know how I make it ? But first, child, tell me honestly, 
do you love this drink of mine ? Otherwise, here, and at 
once, we stop talking about it. 

" I love it for its virtues," said Septimius, temporizing 
with his conscience, " and would prefer it on that account 
to the rarest wines." 

" So far good," said Aunt Keziah, who could not well 
conceive that her liquor should be otherwise than deli- 
cious to the palate. " It is the most virtuous liquor that 
ever was ; and therefore one need not fear drinking too 
much of it. And you want to know what it is made of ? 
Well ; I have often thought of telling you, Seppy, my 
boy, when you should come to be old enough ; for I have 
no other inheritance to leave you, and you are all of my 
blood, unless I should happen to have some far-off uncle 
among the Cape Indians. But first, you must know how 
this good drink, and the faculty of making it, came down 
to me from the chiefs, and sachems, and Peow-wows, that 
were your ancestors and mine, Septimius, and from the 
old wizard who was my great-grandfather and yours, and 
who, they say, added the fire-water to the other ingredi- 



100 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

ents, and so gave it the ouly one thing that it wanted to 
make it perfect." 

And so Aunt Keziah, who had now put herself into a 
most comfortable and jolly state by sipping again, and 
after pressing Septimius to mind his draught (who de- 
clined, on the plea that one dram at a time was enough 
for a new beginner, its virtues being so strong, as well as 
admirable), the old woman told him a legend strangely 
wild and uncouth, and mixed up of savage and civilized 
life, and of the superstitions of both, but which yet had a 
certain analogy, that impressed Septimius much, to the 
story that the doctor had told him. 

She said that, many ages ago, there had been a wild 
sachem in the forest, a king among the Indians, and from 
whom, the old lady said, with a look of pride, she and 
Septimius were hneally descended, and were probably 
the very last who inherited one drop of that royal, wise, 
and warlike blood. The sachem had lived very long, 
longer than anybody knew, for tlie Indians kept no rec- 
ord, and could only talk of a great number of moons ; 
and they said he was as old, or older, than the oldest 
trees ; as old as the hills almost, and could remember 
back to the days of godlike men, who had arts then for- 
gotten. He was a wise and good man, and could fore- 
tell as far into the future as he could remember into the 
past ; and he continued to hve on, till his people were 
afraid that he would live forever, and so disturb the 
whole order of nature ; and they thought it time that so 
good a man, and so great a warrior and wizard, should 
b-* gone to the happy hunting-grounds, and that so wise 
»»■ «tounsellor should go and tell his experience of life to 



SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 101 

the Great Father, and give him an account of matters 
here, and perhaps lead him to make some changes in the 
conduct of the lower world. And so, all these things 
duly considered, they very reverently assassinated the 
great, never-dying sachem ; for though safe against dis- 
ease, and undecayable by age, he was capable of being 
killed by violence, though the hardness of his skull broke 
to fragments the stone tomahawk with which they at first 
tried to kill him. 

So a deputation of the best and bravest of the tribe 
went to the great sachem, and told him their thought, 
and reverently desired his consent to be put out of the 
world; and the undying one agreed with them that it 
was better for his own comfort that he should die, and 
that he had long been weary of the world, having learned 
all that it could teach him, and having, chiefly, learned 
to despair of ever making the red race much better than 
they now were. So he cheerfully consented, and told 
them to kill him if they could ; and first they tried the 
stone hatchet, which was broken against his skull ; and 
then they shot arrows at him, which could not pierce the 
toughness of his skin ; and finally they plastered up his 
nose and mouth (which kept uttering wisdom to the last) 
with clay and set him to bake in the sun ; so at last his 
life burnt out of his breast, tearing his body to pieces, 
and he died. 

[Ilake this legend grotesque, and express the weariness 
of the tribe at the intolerable control the undying one had 
of them ; his always bringing up precepts from his own 
experience, never consenting to anything new, and so im- 
peding progress ; his habits hardening into him, his as* 



10^ SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

cribing to himself all wisdom, and depriving everybody oj 
his right to successive command ; his endless talk, and 
dwelling on the past, so that the world could not bear him. 
Describe his ascetic and severe habits, his rigid calmness, 
etc.'] 

But before the great sagamore died he imparted to 
a chosen one of his tribe, the next wisest to himself, 
the secret of a potent and deh'cious drink, the constant 
imbibing of which, together with his abstinence from 
luxury and passion, had kept him aUve so long, and 
would doubtless have compelled him to live forever. 
This drink was compounded of many ingredients, all of 
which were remembered and handed down in tradition, 
save one, which, either because it was nowhere to be 
found, or for some other reason, was forgotten ; so that 
the drink ceased to give immortal life as before. They 
say it was a beautiful purple flower. \Ferhaps the Devil 
taught him the drink, or else the Great Spirit, — doubtful 
which.] But it still was a most excellent drink, and 
conducive to health, and the cure of all diseases ; and 
the Indians had it at the time of the settlement by the 
English; and at one of those wizard meetings in the 
forest, where the Black Man used to meet his red chil- 
di-en and his white ones, and be jolly with them, a great 
Indian wizard taught the secret to Septimius's great- 
grandfather, who was a wizard, and died for it ; and he, 
in return, taught the Indians to mix it with rum, think- 
ing that this might be the very ingredient that was miss- 
ing, and that by adding it he might give endless life to 
himself and all his Indian friends, among whom he had 
taken a wife. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 103 

"But your great-grandfather, you know, had not a 
fair chance to test its virtues, having been hanged 
for a wizard ; and as for the Indians, they probably 
mixed too much fire-water with their liquid, so that it 
burnt them up, and they all died ; and my mother, and 
her mother, — who taught the drink to me, — and her 
mother afore her, thought it a sin to try to live longer 
than the Lord pleased, so they let themselves die. And 
though the drink is good, Septimius, and toothsome, 
as you see, yet I sometimes feel as if I were getting old, 
like other people, and -may die in the course of the next 
half-century ; so perhaps the rum was not just the thing 
that was wanting to make up the recipe. But it is very 
good ! Take a drop more of it, dear." 

" Not at present, I thank you, Aunt Keziah," said 
Septimius, gravely ; " but will you tell me what the 
ingredients are, and how you make it ? " 

"Yes, I will, my, boy, and you shall write them 
down," said the old woman; "for it's a good drink, 
and none the worse, it may be, for not making you live 
forever. I sometimes think I had as lief go to heaven 
as keep on living here." 

Accordingly, making Septimius take pen and ink, she 
proceeded to tell him a list of plants and herbs, and 
forest productions, and he was surprised to find that it 
agreed most wonderfully with the recipe contained in the 
old manuscript, as he had puzzled it out, and as it had 
been explained by the doctor. There were a few varia- 
tions, it is true ; but even here there was a close analogy, 
plants indigenous to America being substituted for cog- 
nate productions, the growth of Europe. Then there 



10^ SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

was another difference in the mode of preparation. Aunt 
Keziah's nostrum being a concoction, whereas the old 
manuscript gave a process of distillation. This simi- 
larity had a strong effect on Septimius's imagination. 
Here was, in one case, a drink suggested, as might be 
supposed, to a primitive people by something similar to 
that instinct by which the brute creation recognizes the 
medicaments suited to its needs, so that they mixed up 
fragrant herbs for reasons wiser than they knew, and 
made them into a salutary potion ; and here, again, was 
a drink contrived by the utmost skill of a great civilized 
philosopher, searching the whole field of science for his 
purpose ; and these two drinks proved, in all essential 
particulars, to be identically the same. 

"0 Aunt Keziah," said he, with a longing earnest- 
ness, " are you sure that you cannot remember that one 
ingredient ? " 

" No, Septimius, I cannot possibly do it," said she. 
** I have tried many things, skunk-cabbage, wormwood, 
and a thousand things ; for it is truly a pity that the 
chief benefit of the thing should be lost for so little. 
But the only effect was, to spoil the good taste of the 
stuff, and, two or three times, to poison myself, so that 
I broke out all over blotches, and once lost the use of 
my left arm, and got a dizziness in the head, and a rheu- 
matic twist in my knee, a hardness of hearing, and a 
dimness of sight, and the trembles ; all of which I cer- 
tainly believe to have been caused by my putting some- 
thing else into this blessed drink besides the good New 
England rum. Stick to that, Seppy, my dear." 

So saying. Aunt Keziah took yet another sip of the 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 105 

beloved liquid, after vainly pressing- Septimius to do the 
like ; and then lighting her old clay pipe, she sat down 
in the chimney-corner, meditating, dreaming, muttering 
pious prayers and ejaculations, and sometimes looking 
up the wide flue of the chimney, with thoughts, perhaps, 
how delightful it must have been to fly up there, in old 
times, on excursions by midnight into the forest, where 
was the Black Man, and the Puritan deacons and ladies, 
and those wild Indian ancestors of hers ; and where the 
wildness of the forest was so grim and delightful, and so 
unhke the commonplaceness in which she spent her life. 
Eor thus did tlie savage strain of the woman, mixed up 
as it was with the other weird and religious parts of her 
composition, sometimes snatch her back into barbarian 
life and its instincts ; and in Septimius, though furtlier 
diluted, and modified likewise by higher cultivation, there 
was the same tendency. 

Septimius escaped from the old woman, and was glad 
to breathe the free air again; so much had he been 
wrought upon by her wild legends and wild character, 
the more powerful by its analogy with his own; and 
perhaps, too, his brain had been a little bewildered by 
the draught of her diabolical concoction which she had 
compelled him to take. At any rate, he was glad to 
escape to his hill-top, the free air of which had doubt- 
less contributed to keep him in health through so long 
a course of morbid thought and estranged study as he 
had addicted himself to. 

Here, as it happened, he found both Rose Garfield 
and Sybil Dacy, whom the pleasant summer evening 
had brought out They had formed a friendship, or at 
5* 



106 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

least society ; and there could not well be a pair more 
unlike, — the one so natural, so healthy, so fit to live in 
the world; the other such a morbid, pale thing. So 
there they wf.re, walking arm in arm, with one arm 
round each other's waist, as girls love to do. They 
greeted the young man in their several ways, and began 
to walk to and fro together, looking at the sunset as it 
came on, and talking of things on earth and in the clouds. 

" When has Kobert Hagburn been heard from ? " 
asked Septimius, who, involved hi his own pursuits, was 
altogether behindhand in the matters of the war, — 
shame to him for it ! 

" There came news, two days past," said Rose, blush- 
ing. " He is on his way home with the remnant of Gen- 
eral Arnold's command, and will be here soon." 

"He is a brave fellow, Robert," said Septimius, 
carelessly. " And I know not, since life is so short, that 
anything better can be done with it than to risk it as he 
does." 

" I truly think not," said Rose Garfield, composedly. 

" What a blessing it is to mortals," said Sybil Dacy, 
" what a kindness of Providence, that life is made so 
uncertain ; that death is thrown in among the possibili- 
ties of our being ; that these awful mysteries are thrown 
around us, into which we may vanish ! For, without it, 
how would it be possible to be heroic, how should we 
plod along in commonplaces forever, never dreaming high 
things, never risking anything ? For my part, I think 
man is more favored than the angels, and made capable of 
higher heroism, greater virtue, and of a more excellent 
spirit than they, because we have such a mystery of grief 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 107 

and terror around us ; whereas they, being in a certainty 
of God's light, seeing his goodness and his purposes more 
perfectly than we, cannot be so brave as often poor weak 
man, and weaker woman, has the opportunity to be, and 
sometimes makes use of it. God gave the whole world 
to man, and if he is left alone with it, it will make a clod 
of him at last; but, to remedy that, God gave man a 
grave, and it redeems all, while it seems to destroy all, 
and makes an immortal spirit of him in the end." 

"Dear Sybil, you are inspired," said Rose, gazing in 
her face. 

*' I think you ascribe a great deal too much potency to 
the grave," said Septimius, pausing involuntarily alone 
by the little hillock, whose contents he knew so well. 
" The grave seems to me a vile pitfall, put right in our 
pathway, and catching most of us, — all of us, — causing 
us to tumble in at the most inconvenient opportunities, 
so that all human life is a jest and a farce, just for the 
sake of this inopportune death ; for I observe it never 
waits for us to accomplish anything : we may have the 
salvation of a country in hand, but we are none the less 
likely to die for that. So that, being a believer, on the 
whole, in the wisdom and graciousness of Providence, I 
am convinced that dying is a mistake, and that by and 
by we shall overcome it. I say there is no use in the 
grave." 

" I still adhere to what I said," answered Sybil Dacy ; 
" and besides, there is another use of a grave which I have 
often observed in old English graveyards, where the moss 
grows green, and embosses the letters of the gravestones j 
and also graves are very good for flower-beds." 



lOS SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

Nobody ever could tell when the strange girl was going 
to say what was laughable, — when what was melancholy ; 
and neither of Sybil's auditors knew quite what to make 
of this speech. Neither could Septiraius fail to be a lit- 
tle startled by seeing her, as she spoke of the grave as a 
flower-bed, stoop down to the little hillock to examine 
the flowers, which, indeed, seemed to prove her words by 
growing there in strange abundance, and of many sorts ; 
so that, if they could all have bloomed at once, the spot 
would have looked like a bouquet by itself, or as if the 
earth were richest in beauty there, or as if seeds had been 
lavished by some florist. Septimius could not account 
for it, for though the hillside did produce certain flowers, 
— the aster, the golden-rod, the violet, and other such 
simple and common things, — yet this seemed as if a 
carpet of bright colors had been thrown down there and 
covered the spot. 

" This is very strange," said he. 

" Yes," said Sybil Dacy, " there is some strange rich- 
ness in this httle spot of soil." 

" Where could tlie seeds have come from ? — that is 
the greatest wonder," said Rose. " You might almost 
teach me botany, methinks, on this one spot." 

" Do you know this plant ? " asked Sybil of Septimius, 
pointing to one not yet in flower, but of singular leaf, 
that was thrusting itself up out of the ground, on the 
very centre of the grave, over where the breast of the 
sleeper below might seem to be. " I think there is no 
other here like it." 

Septimius stooped down to examine it, and was con- 
vinced that it was unlike anything he had seen of the 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 109 

flower kind ; a leaf of a dark green, with purple veins 
traversing it, it had a sort of questionable aspect, as some 
plants have, so that you would think it very likely to 
be poison, and would not like to touch or smell very inti' 
mately, without first inquiring who would be its guaran- 
tee that it should do no mischief. That it had some rich- 
ness or other, either baneful or beneficial, you could not 
doubt. 

" I think it poisonous," said Rose Garfield, shudder- 
ing, for she was a person so natural she hated poisonous 
things, or anything speckled especially, and did not, in- 
deed, love strangeness. " Yet I should not wonder if 
it bore a beautiful flower by and by. Nevertheless, if I 
were to do just as I feel inclined, I should root it up and 
fling it away." 

" Shall she do so ? " said Sybil to Septimius. 

" Not for the world," said he, hastily. " Above all 
things, I desire to see what will come of this plant." 

"Be it as you please," said Sybil. "Meanwhile, if 
you like to sit down here and listen to me, I will tell you 
a story that happens to come into my mind just now, 
— I cannot tell why. It is a legend of an old hall that I 
know well, and have known from my childhood, in one 
of the northern counties of England, where I was born. 
Would you like to hear it, Rose ? " 

"Yes, of all things," said she. " I like all stories of 
hall and cottage in the old country, though now we must 
not call it our country any more." 

Sybil looked at Septimius, as if to inquire whether he, 
too, chose to listen to her story, and he made answer : — 

" Yes, I shall like to hear the legend, if it is a genuine 



110 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

one that has been adopted into the popular belief, and 
came down in chimney-corners with the smoke and soot 
that gathers there ; and incrusted over with humanity, 
by passing from one homely mind to another. Then, 
such stories get to be true, in a certain sense, and indeed 
in that sense may be called true througliout, for the very 
nucleus, the fiction in them, seems to have come out of 
the heart of man in a way that cannot be imitated of 
malice aforethought. Nobody can make a tradition ; it 
takes a century to make it." 

"I know not whether this legend has the character 
you mean," said Sybil, "but it has lived much more than 
a century ; and here it is. 

" On the threshold of one of the doors of Hall 

there is a bloody footstep impressed into the doorstep, 
and ruddy as if the bloody foot had j ust trodden there ; 
and it is averred that, on a certain night of the year, and 
at a certain hour of the night, if you go and look at that 
doorstep you will see the mark wet with fresh blood. 
Some have pretended to say that this appearance of 
blood was but dew ; but can dew redden a cambric hand- 
kerchief ? Will it crimson the finger-tips when you touch 
it ? And that is what the bloody footstep will surely do 
when the appointed night and hour come round, this 
very year, just as it would three hundred years ago. 

" Well ; but how did it come there ? I know not pre- 
cisely in what age it was, but long ago, when light was 
beginning to shine into what were called the dark ages, 

there was a lord of Hall who applied himself deeply 

to knowledge and science, under the guidance of the 



SEPTiMIUS FELTON. Ill 

wisest man of that age, — a man so wise that he was 
thought to be a wizard ; and, indeed, he may have been 
one, if to be a wizard consists in having command over 
secret powers of nature, that other men do not even sus- 
pect the existence of, and the control of which enables 
one to do feats that seem as wonderful as raising the 
dead. It is needless to tell you all the strange stories 
that have survived to this day about the old Hall ; and 
how it is believed that the master of it, owing to his 
ancient science, has still a sort of residence there, and 
control of the place ; and how, in one of the chambers, 
there is still his antique table, and his chair, and some 
rude old instruments and machinery, and a book, and 
everything in readiness, just as if he might still come 
back to finish some experiment. What it is important 
to say is, that one of the chief things to which the old 
lord applied himself was to discover the means of pro- 
longing his own life, so that its duration should be indefi- 
nite, if not infinite; and such was his science, that he 
was believed to have attained this magnificent and awful 
purpose. 

"So, as you may suppose, the man of science had 
great joy in having done this thing, both for the pride 
of it, and because it Avas so delightful a thing to have 
before him the prospect of endless time, which he might 
spend in adding more and more to his science, and so 
doing good to the world; for the chief obstruction to 
the improvement of the world and the growth of knowl- 
edge is, that mankind cannot go straightforward in it, 
but continually there have to be new beginnings, and it 
takes every new man half his life, if not the whole of it, 



112 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

to come up to the point where his predecessor left off. 
And so this noble man — this man of a noble purpose — 
spent many years in finding out this mighty secret; and 
at last, it is said, he succeeded. But on what terms ? 

"Well, it is said that the terms were dreadful and 
horrible ; insomuch that the wise man hesitated wiiether 
it were lawful and desirable to take advantage of them, 
great as was the object in view. 

" You see, the object of the lord of Hall was to 

take a life from the course of Nature, and Nature did not 
choose to be defrauded ; so that, great as was the power 
of this scientific man over her, she would not consent 
that he should escape the necessity of dying at his 
proper time, except upon condition of sacrificing some 
other life for his ; and this was to be done once for every 
tliirty years that he chose to live, thirty years being the 
account of a generation of man ; and if in any way, in 
that time, this lord could be the death of a human being, 
that satisfied the requisition, and he might live on. 
Tliere is a form of the legend which says, that one of 
the ingredients of the drink which the nobleman brewed 
by his science was the heart's blood of a pure young boy 
or girl. But this I reject, as too coarse an idea; and, 
indeed, I think it may be taken to mean symbolically, 
that the person who desires to engross to himself more 
than his share of human life must do it by sacrificing to 
his selfishness some dearest interest of another person, 
who has a good right to life, and may be as useful in it 
as he. 

" Now, this lord was a just man by nature, and if he 
liad gone astray, it was greatly by reason of his earnest 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 113 

wish to do something for the poor, wicked, struggling, 
bloody, uncomfortable race of man, to which he belonged. 
lie bethought himself whether he would have a right to 
take the life of one of those creatures, without their own 
consent, in order to prolong his own ; and after much 
arguing to and fro, he came to the conclusion that he 
should not have the riglit, unless it were a life over 
which he had control, and which was the next to hia 
own. He looked round him ; he was a lonely and ab- 
stracted man, secluded by his studies from human affec- 
tions, and there was but one human being whom he 
cared for; — that was a beautiful kinswoman, an orphan, 
whom his father had brought up, and, dying, left her to 
his care. There was great kindness and affection — as 
great as the abstracted nature of his pursuits would allow 
— on the part of this lord towards .tlie beautiful young 
girl ; but not what is called love, — at least, he never ac- 
knowledged it to himself. But, looking into his heart, he 
saw that she, if any one, was to be the person whom the 
sacrifice demanded, and that he might kill twenty others 
without effect, but if he took the life of this one, it would 
make the charm strong and good. 

" My friends, I have meditated many a time on this 
ugly feature of my legend, and am unwilling to take it in 
the literal sense ; so 1 conceive its spiritual meaning (for 
everything, you know, has its spiritual meaning, which 
to the literal meaning is what the soul is to the body), — 
its spiritual meaning was, that to the deep pursuit of sci- 
ence we must saeriiice great part of the joy of life ; that 
nobody can be great, and do great things, without giving 
up to death, so far as he regards his enjoyment of it, 



114 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

much that he would gladly enjoy ; and in that sense 1 
choose to take it. But the earthly old legend will have 
it, that this mad, high-minded, heroic, murderous lord 
did insist upon it with himself that he must murder this 
poor, loving, and beloved child. 

"I do not wish to delay upon this horrible matter, 
and to tell you how he argued it with himself; and how, 
the more and more he argued it, the more reasonable it 
seemed, the more absolutely necessary, the more a duty 
that the terrible sacrifice should be made. Here was 
this great good to be done to mankind, and all that 
stood in the way of it was one little delicate life, so frail 
that it was likely enough to be blown out, any day, by 
th'e mere rude blast that the rush of life creates, as it 
streams along, or by any slightest accident; so good 
and pure, too, that she was quite unfit for this world, 
and not capable of any happiness in it ; and all that was 
asked of her was to allow herself to be transported to a 
place where she would be happy, and would find com- 
panions fit for her, — which he, her only present com- 
panion, certainly was not. In fine, he resolved to shed 
the sweet, fragrant blood of this little violet that loved 
him so. 

" Well ; let ns hurry over this part of the story as 
fast as we can. He did slay this pure young girl ; he 
took her into the wood near the house, an old wood that 
is standing yet, with some of its magnificent oaks ; and 
then he plunged a dagger into her heart, after they had 
had a very tender and loving talk together, in which he 
had tried to open the matter tenderly to her, and make 
her understand, that though he was to slay her, it was 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 115 

really Ibr the very reason that he loved her better than 
anything else in the world, and that he would far rather 
die himself, if that would answer the purpose at all. 
Indeed, he is said to have offered her the alternative of 
slaying him, and talcing upon herself the burden of in- 
definite life, and the studies and pursuits by which he 
meant to benefit mankind. But she, it is said, — this 
noble, pure, loving child, — she looked up into his face 
and smiled sadly, and then snatching the dagger from 
him, she plunged it into her own heart. I cannot tell 
whether this be true or whether she waited to be killed 
by him ; but this I know, that in the same circumstances 
I think I should have saved my lover or my friend the 
pain of kilhng me. There she lay dead, at any rate, and 
he buried her in the wood, and returned to the house ; 
and, as it happened, he had set his right foot in her 
blood, and his shoe was wet in it, and by some miracu- 
lous fate, it left a track all along the wood-path, and into 
the house, and on the stone steps of the threshold, and 
up into his chamber, all along ; and the servants saw it 
the next day, and wondered, and whispered, and missed 
the fair young girl, and looked askance at their lord's 
right foot, and turned pale, all of them, as death. 

"And next, the legend says, that Sir Forrester was 
struck with horror at what he had done, and could not 
bear the laboratory where he had toiled so long, and was 
sick to death of the object that he had pursued, and was 
most miserable, and fled from his old Hall, and was gone 
full many a day. But all the while he was gone there 
was the mark of a bloody footstep impressed upon the 
stone doorstep of the Hall. The track had lain all along 



116 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

through the wood-path, and across the lawn, to the old 
Gothic door of the Hall ; but the rain, the English rain 
that is always falling, had come the next day, and 
washed it all away. The track had lain, too, across the 
broad hall, and up the stairs, and into the lord's study ; 
but there it had lain on the rushes that were strewn 
there, and these the servants had gathered carefully up, 
and thrown them away, and spread fresh ones. So that 
it was only on the threshold that the mark remained. 

"But the legend says, that wherever Sir Forrester 
went, in his wanderings about the world, he left a bloody 
track behind him. It was wonderful, and very incon- 
venient, this phenomenon. When he went into a church, 
you would see the track up the broad aisle, and a little 
red puddle in the place where he sat or knelt. Once he 
went to the king's court, and there being a track up to 
the very throne, the king frowned upon him, so tliat he 
never came there any more. Nobody could tell how it 
happened ; his foot was not seen to bleed, only there 
was the bloody track behind him, wherever he went ; 
and he was a horror-stricken man, always looking behind 
him to see the track, and then hurrying onward, as if to 
escape his own tracks ; but always they followed him as 
fast. 

" In the hall of feasting, there was the bloody track 
to his chair. The learned men whom he consulted about 
this strange difficulty conferred with one another, and 
with him, who was equal to any of them, and pished and 
pshawed, and said, 'O, there is uothiug miraculous in 
this ; it is only a natural infirmity, which can easily be 
put an end to, though, perhaps, the stoppage of such 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 117 

an evacuation will cause damage to other parts of the 
frame.' Sir Forrester always said, ' Stop it, my learned 
brethren, if you can ; no matter what the consequences.' 
And they did their best, but without result ; so that he 
was still compelled to leave his bloody track on their 
college-rooms and combination-rooms, the same as else- 
where ; and in street and in wilderness ; yes, and in the 
battle-field, they say, his track looked freshest and red- 
dest of all. So, at last, finding the notice he attracted 
inconvenient, this unfortunate lord deemed it best to go 
back to his own Hall, where, living among faithful old 
servants born in the family, he could hush the matter up 
better than elsewhere, and not be stared at continually, 
or, glancing round, see people holding up their hands in 
terror at seeing a bloody track behind him. And so home 
he came, and there he saw the bloody track on the door- 
step, and dolefully went into the hall, and up the stairs, 
an old servant ushering him into his chamber, and half 
a dozen others following behind, gazing, shuddering, 
pointing with quivering fingers, looking horror-stricken 
in one another's pale faces, and the moment he had 
passed, running to get fresh rushes, and to scour the 
stairs. The next day, Sir Eorrester went into the wood, 
and by the aged oak he found a grave, and on the grave 
he beheld a beautiful crimson flower ; the most gorgeous 
and beautiful, surely, that ever grew ; so rich it looked, 
so full of potent juice. That flower he gathered; and 
the spirit of his scientific pursuits coming upon him, he 
knew that this was the flower, produced out of a human 
life, that was essential to the perfection of his recipe for 
immortality ; and he made the drink, and drank it, and 



118 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

became immortal in woe and agony, still studying, still 
growing wiser and more wretched in every age. By 
and by he vanished from the old Hall, but not by death ; 
for from generation to generation, they say that a bloody 
track is seen around tliat house, and sometimes it is 
tracked up into the chambers, so freshly that you see 
he must have passed a short time before ; and he grows 
wiser and wiser, and lonelier and lonelier, from age to 
age. And this is the legend of the bloody footstep, 
which I myself have seen at the Hall door. As to the 
flower, the plant of it continued for several years to grow 
out of the grave ; and after a while, perhaps a century 

ago, it was transplanted into the garden of Hall, and 

preserved with great care, and is so still. And as the 
family attribute a kind of sacredness, or cursedness, to 
the flower, they can hardly be prevailed upon to give 
any of the seeds, or allow it to be propagated elsewhere, 
though the king should send to ask it. It is said, too, 
that there is still in the family the old lord's recipe for 
immortality, and that several of his collateral descend- 
ants have tried to concoct it, and instil the flower into 
it, and so give indefinite life ; but unsuccessfully, because 
the seeds of the flower must be planted in a fresh grave 
of bloody death, in order to make it effectual." 

So ended Sybil's legend; in which Septimius was 
struck by a certain analogy to Aunt Keziah's Indian 
legend, — both referring to a flower growing out of a 
grave ; and also he did not fail to be impressed with the 
wild coincidence of this disappearance of an ancestor of 
the family long ago, and the appearance, at about the 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 119 

same epoch, of the first known ancestor of his own fam- 
ily, the man with wizard's attributes, with the bloody foot- 
step, and whose sudden disappearance became a myth, 
under the idea that the Devil carried him away. Yet, 
on the whole, this wild tradition, doubtless becoming 
wilder in Sybil's wayward and morbid fancy, had tlie 
effect to give him a sense of the fantasticalness of his 
present pursuit, and that in adopting it, he had strayed 
into a region long abandoned to superstition, and where 
the shadows of forgotten dreams go when men are done 
with them ; where past worships are ; where great Pan 
went when he died to the outer world; a limbo into 
which living men sometimes stray when they think them- 
selves sensiblest and wisest, aud whence they do not often 
find their way back into the real world. Visions of 
wealth, visions of fame, visions of philanthropy, — all 
visions find room here, and glide about without jostling. 
"When Septimius came to look at the matter in his pres- 
ent mood, the thought occurred to him that he had per- 
haps got into such a limbo, aud that Sybil's legend, which 
looked so wild, might be all of a piece with his own 
present life ; for Sybil herself seemed an illusion, and 
so, most strangely, did Aunt Keziah, whom he had 
known all his life, with her homely and quaint charac- 
teristics ; the grim doctor, with his brandy and his Ger- 
man pipe, impressed him in the same way; and these, 
altogether, made his homely cottage by the wayside seem 
an unsubstantial edifice, such as castles in the air are 
built of, and the ground he trod on unreal; and that 
grave, which he knew to contain the decay of a beautiful 
young man, but a fictitious swell formed by the fantasy 



120 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

of liis eyes. All unreal ; all illusion ! Was Rose Gar- 
field a deception too, with her daily beauty, and daily 
cheerfulness, and daily worth ? In short, it was such 
a moment as I suppose all men feel (at least, I can an- 
swer for one), when the real scene and picture of life 
swims, jars, shakes, seems about to be broken up and 
dispersed, like the picture in a smooth pond, when we 
disturb its tranquil mirror by throwing in a stone ; and 
though the scene soon settles itself, and looks as real as 
before, a haunting doubt keeps close at hand, as long as 
we live, asking, " Is it stable ? Am I sure of it ? Am 
I certainly not dreaming ? See ; it trembles again, ready 
to dissolve." 

Applying himself with earnest diligence to his attempt 
to decipher and interpret the mysterious manuscript, 
working with his whole mind and strength, Septimius 
did not fail of some flattering degree of success. 

A good deal of the manuscript, as has been said, was 
in an ancient English script, although so uncouth and 
shapeless were the characters, that it was not easy to 
resolve them into letters, or to believe that they were 
anything but arbitrary and dismal blots and scrawls upon 
the yellow paper ; without meaning, vague, like the misty 
and undefiued germs of thought as they exist in our 
minds before clothing themselves in words. These, how- 
ever, as he concentrated his mind upon them, took dis- 
tincter shape, like cloudy stars at the power of the tele- 
scope, and became sometimes English, sometimes Latin, 
strangely patched together, as if, so accustomed was the 
writer to use that language in which all the science of 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 121 

that age was usually embodied, that he really mixed it 
unconsciously with the vernacular, or used both indis- 
criminately. There was some Greek, too, but not much. 
Then frequently came in the cipher, to the study of which 
Septimius had applied himself for some time back, with 
the aid of the books borrowed from the college library, 
and not without success. Indeed, it appeared to him, 
on close observation, that it had not been the intention, 
of the writer really to conceal what he had written from 
any earnest student, but rather to lock it up for safety 
in a sort of coffer, of which diligence and insight should 
be the key, and the keen intelligence with which the 
meaning was sought should be the test of the seeker's 
beiug entitled to possess the secret treasure. 

Amid a great deal of misty stuff, he found the docu- 
ment to consist chiefly, contrary to his supposition be- 
forehand, of certain rules of life ; he would have taken 
it, on a casual inspection, for an essay of counsel, ad- 
dressed by some great and sagacious man to a youth in 
whom he felt an interest, — so secure and good a doc- 
trine of life was propounded, such excellent maxims 
there were, such wisdom in all matters that came within 
the writer's purview. It was as much like a digested 
synopsis of some old philosopher's wise rules of conduct, 
as anything else. But on closer inspection, Septimius, 
in his unsophisticated consideration of this matter, was 
not so well satisfied. True, everything that was said 
seemed not discordant with the rules of social morality ; 
not unwise : it was shrewd, sagacious ; it did not appear 
to infringe upon the rights of mankind ; but there was 
something left out, something unsatisfactory, — what was 
6 



I'ZZ SEPTI.M1US FELTON. 

it ? There was certainly a cold spell in the document ; 
a magic, not of fire, but of ice ; and Septimius the more 
exemplified its power, in that he soon began to be 
insensible of it. It affected him as if it had been 
written by some greatly wise and worldly-experienced 
man, like the writer of Ecclesiastes ; for it was full of 
truth. It was a truth that does not make men better, 
though perhaps calmer ; and beneath which the buds of 
happiness curl up like tender leaves in a frost. What 
was the matter with this document, that the young man's 
youth perished out of him as he read ? What icy hand 
had written it, so that the heart was chilled out of the 
reader ? Not that Septimius was sensible of this char- 
acter ; at least, not long, — for as he read, there grew 
upon him a mood of calm satisfaction, such as he had 
never felt before. His mind seemed to grow clearer; 
his perceptions most acute ; his sense of the reality of 
things grew to be such, that he felt as if he could touch 
and handle all his thoughts, feel round about all their 
outline and circumference, and know them with a cer- 
tainty, as if they were material things. Not that all 
this was in the document itself; but by studying it so 
earnestly, and, as it were, creating its meaning anew for 
himself, out of such illegible materials, he caught the 
temper of the old writer's mind, after so many ages as 
that tract had lain in the mouldy and musty manuscript. 
He was magnetized with him ; a powerful intellect acted 
powerfully upon him ; perhaps, even, there was a sort of 
spell and mystic influence imbued into the paper, and 
mingled with the yellow ink, that steamed forth by the 
effort of this young man's earnest rubbing, as it were, 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 123 

and by the action of his miud, applied to it as intently 
as he possibly could ; and even his handling the paper, 
his bending over it, and breathing upon it, had its 
effect. 

It is not in our povrer, nor in our wish, to produce the 
original form, nor yet the spirit, of a production which 
is better lost to the world : because it was the expres- 
sion of a human intellect originally greatly gifted and 
capable of high things, but gone utterly astray, partly by 
its own subtlety, partly by yielding to the templations 
of the lower part of its nature, by yielding the spiritual 
to a keen sagacity of lower things, until it was quite 
fallen ; and yet fallen in such a way, that it seemed not 
only to itself, but to mankind, not fallen at all, but 
wise and good, and fulfilling all the ends of intellect in 
such a life as ours, and proving, moreover, that earthly 
life was good, and all that the development of our na- 
ture demanded. All this is better forgotten; better 
burnt; better never thought over again; and all the 
more, because its aspect was so wise, and even praise- 
worthy. But what we must preserve of it were certain 
rules of Hfe and moral diet, not exactly expressed in 
the document, but which, as it were, on its being duly 
received into Septimius's mind, were precipitated from 
the rich solution, and crystallized into diamonds, and 
which he found to be the moral dietetics, so to speak, by 
observing which he was to achieve the end of earthly 
immortality, whose physical nostrum was given in the 
recipe which, with the help of Doctor Portsoaken and 
his Aunt Keziah, he had already pretty satisfactorily 
made out. 



124) SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

" Keep thy heart at seventy throbs in a minute ; all 
more than that wears away life too quickly. If thy 
respiration be too quick, think with thyself that thou 
hast sinned against natural order and moderation. 

" Drink not wine nor strong drink ; and observe that 
this rule is worthiest in its symbolic meaning. 

"Bask daily in the sunshine, and let it rest on thy 
heart. 

" Run not ; leap not ; walk at a steady pace, and 
count thy paces per day. 

"If thou feelest, at any time, a throb of the heart, 
pause on the instant, and analyze it ; fix thy mental eye 
steadfastly upon it, and inquire why such commotion is. 

" Hate not any man nor woman ; be not angry, unless 
at any time thy blood seem a little cold and torpid ; cut 
out all rankling feelings, they are poisonous to thee. If, 
in thy waking moments, or in thy dreams, thou hast 
thoughts of strife or ud pleasantness with any man, strive 
quietly with thyself to forget him. 

" Have no friendships with an imperfect man, with a 
man in bad health, of violent passions, of any character- 
istic that evidently disturbs his own life, and so may 
have disturbing influence on thine. Shake not any man 
by the hand, because thereby, if there be any evil in the 
man, it is likely to be communicated to thee. 

" Kiss no woman if her lips be red ; look not upon her 
if she be very fair. Touch not her hand if thy finger- 
tips be found to thrill with hers ever so little. On the 
whole, shun woman, for she is apt to be a disturbing 
influence. If thou love her, all is over, and thy whole 
past and remaining labor and pains will be in vain. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 125 

"Do some decent degree of good and kindness in 
thy daily life, for the result is a slight pleasurable sense 
that will seem to warm and delectate thee with felici- 
tous self- landings ; and all that brings thy thoughts 
to thyself tends to invigorate that central principle by 
the growth of which thou art to give thyself indefinite 
life. 

" Do not any act manifestly evil ; it may grow upon 
theCj and corrode thee in after-years. Do not any fool- 
ish good act; it may change thy wise habits, 

"Eat no spiced meats. Young chickens, new-fallen 
lambs, fruits, bread four days old, milk, freshest butter, 
will make thy fleshy tabernacle youthful, 

" Erom sick people, maimed wretches, afflicted people, 
— all of whom show themselves at variance with things 
as they should be, — from people beyond their wits, from 
people in a melancholic mood, from people in extrava- 
gant joy, from teething children, from dead corpses, turn 
away thine eyes and depart elsewhere, 

"If beggars haunt thee, let thy servants drive them 
away, thou withdrawing out of ear-shot. 

" Crying and sickly children, and teething children, as 
aforesaid, carefully avoid. Drink the breath of whole- 
some infants as often as thou conveniently canst, — 
it is good for thy purpose; also the breath of buxom 
maids, if thou mayest without undue disturbance of the 
flesh, drink it as a morning-draught, as medicine ; also 
the breath of cows as they return from rich pasture at 
eventide. 

"If thou seest human poverty, or suff'ering, and it 
trouble thee, strive moderately to relieve it, seeing tJiat 



126 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

thus thy mood will be changed to a pleasant self-lauda- 
tion. 

" Practise thyself in a certain continual smile, for its 
tendency will be to compose thy frame of being, and keep 
thee from too much wear, 

" Search not to see if thou hast a gray hair ; scruti- 
nize not thy forehead to find a wrinkle ; nor the corners 
of thy eyes to discover if they be corrugated. Such 
things, being gazed at, daily take heart and grow. 

" Desire nothing too fervently, not even life ; yet 
keep thy hold upon it mightily, quietly, unshakably, for 
as long as thou really art resolved to live, Death, with 
all his force, shall have no power against thee. 

" Walk not beneath tottering ruins, nor houses being 
put up, nor climb to the top of a mast, nor approach the 
edge of a precipice, nor stand in the way of the lightning, 
nor cross a swollen river, nor voyage at sea, nor ride a 
skittish horse, nor be shot at by an arrow, nor confront 
a sword, nor put thyself in the way of violent death ; for 
this is hateful, and breaketh through all wise rules. 

" Say thy prayers at bedtime, if thou deemest it will 
give thee quieter sleep ; yet let it not trouble thee if 
thou forgettest them. 

" Change thy shirt daily ; thereby thou castest off 
yesterday's decay, and imbibest the freshness of the 
morning's life, which enjoy with smelling to roses, and 
other healthy and fragrant flowers, and live the longer 
for it, Roses are made to that end. 

" Read not great poets ; they stir up thy heart ; and 
the human heart is a soil which, if deeply stirred, is apt 
to give out noxious vapors." 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 127 

Such were some of the precepts which Septimius gath- 
ered and reduced to definite form out of tliis wonderful 
document ; and he appreciated their wisdom, and saw 
clearly that they must be absolutely essential to the 
success of the medicine with which they were connected. 
In themselves, almost, they seemed capable of prolong- 
ing life to an indefinite period, so wisely were they con- 
ceived, so well did they apply to the causes whicli almost 
invariably wear away this poor short life of men, years 
and years before even the shattered constitutions tliat 
they received from their forefathers need compel them to 
die. He deemed himself well rewarded for all his labor 
and pains, should nothmg else follow but his reception 
and proper appreciation of these wise rules ; but con- 
tinually, as he read the manuscript, more truths, and, for 
aught I know, profounder and more practical ones, devel- 
oped themselves ; and, indeed, small as the manuscript 
looked, Septimius thought that he should find a volume 
as big as the most ponderous folio in the college library 
too small to contain its wisdom. It seemed to drip and 
distil with precious fragrant drops, whenever he took it 
out of his desk ; it diffused wisdom like those vials of 
perfume which, small as they look, keep diffusing an 
airy wealth of fragrance for years and years together, 
scattering their virtue in incalculable volumes of invisi- 
ble vapor, and yet are none the less in bulk for all they 
give ; whenever he turned over the yellow leaves, bits 
of gold, diamonds of good size, precious pearls, seemed 
to drop out from between them. 

And now ensued a surprise which, though of a happy 
kind, was almost too much for him to bear ; for it made 



128 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

his heart beat considerably faster than the wise rules of 
his manuscript prescribed. Going up on his hill-top, as 
summer wore away (he had not been there for some 
time), and walking by the little flowery hillock, as so 
many a hundred times before, what should he see there 
but a new flower, that during the time he had been 
poring over the manuscript so sedulously had developed 
itself, blossomed, put forth its petals, bloomed into full 
perfection, and now, with the dew of the morning upon 
it, was waiting to offer itself to Septimius ? He trem- 
bled as he looked at it, it was too much almost to bear ; 
— it was so very beautiful, so very stately, so very rich, 
so very mysterious and wonderful. It was like a per- 
son, like a life ! Whence did it come ? He stood apart 
from it, gazing in wonder; tremulously taking in its 
aspect, and thinking of the legends he had heard from 
Aunt Keziah and from Sybil Dacy ; and how that this 
flower, like the one that their wild traditions told of, 
had grown out of a grave, — out of a grave in which he 
had laid one slain by himself. 

The flower was of the richest crimson, illuminated with 
a golden centre of a perfect and stately beauty. From 
the best descriptions that I have been able to gain of it, 
it was more like a dahlia than any other flower with 
which I have acquaintance ; yet it does not satisfy me to 
believe it really of that species, for the dahlia is not a 
flower of any deep characteristics, either lively or malig- 
nant, and this flower, which Septimius found so strangely, 
seems to have had one or the other. If I have rightly 
understood, it had a fragrance which the dahlia lacks ; 
and there was something hidden in its centre, a mystery. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 129 

even in its fullest bloom, not developing itself so openly 
as the heartless, yet not dishonest, dahlia. I remember 
in England to have seen a flower at Eaton Hall, in Chesh- 
ire, in those magnificent gardens, which may have been 
like this, but my remembrance of it is not sufficiently dis- 
tinct to enable me to describe it better than by saying 
that it was crimsoh, with a gleam of gold in its centre, 
which yet was partly hidden. It had many petals of 
great richness. 

Septimius, bending eagerly over the plant, saw that 
this was not to be the only flower that it would pro- 
duce that season; on the contrary, there was to be a 
great abundance of them, a luxuriant harvest ; as if the 
crimson oifspring of this one plant would cover the whole 
hillock, — as if the dead youth beneath had burst into a 
resurrection of many crimson flowers ! And in its veiled 
heart, moreover, there was a mystery like death, although 
it seemed to cover something bright and golden. 

Day after day the strange crimson flower bloomed 
more and more abundantly, until it seemed almost to 
cover the little hillock, which became a mere bed of it, 
apparently turning all its capacity of production to this 
flower ; for the other plants, Septimius thought, seemed 
to shrink away, and give place to it, as if they were un- 
worthy to compare with the richness, glory, and worth 
of this their queen. The fervent summer burned into it, 
the dew and the rain ministered to it ; the soil was rich, 
for it was a human heart contributing its juices, — a heart 
in its fiery youth sodden in its own blood, so that passion, 
unsatisfied loves and longings, ambition that never won 
its object, tender dreams and throbs, angers, lusts, hates, 
6* 1 



130 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

all concentrated by life, came sprouting in it, and its 
mysterious being, and streaks and shadows bad some 
meaning in eacli of them. 

The two girls, when they next ascended the hill, saw 
the strange flower, and Rose admired it, and wondered 
at it, but stood at a distance, without showing an attrac- 
tion towards it, rather an undefined aversion, as if she 
thought it might be a poison flower ; at any rate she 
would not be inclined to wear it in her bosom. Sybil 
Dacy examined it closely, touched its leaves, smelt it, 
looked at it with a botanist's eye, and at last remarked 
to Rose, " Yes, it grows well in this new soil ; methinks 
it looks like a new human life." 

" What is the strange flower ? " asked Rose. 

" The Sanguinea sanguinissima," said Sybil. 

It so happened about this time that poor Aunt Keziah, 
in spite of her constant use of that bitter mixture of hers, 
was in a very bad state of health. She looked all of an 
unpleasant yellow, with bloodshot eyes ; she complained 
terribly of her inwards. She had an ugly rheumatic 
hitch in her motion from place to place, and was heard to 
mutter many wishes that she had a broomstick to fly 
about upon, and she used to bind up her head with a 
dishclout, or what looked to be such, and would sit by 
the kitchen fire even in the warm days, bent over it, 
crouching as if she wanted to take the whole fire into her 
poor cold heart or gizzard, — groaning regularly with 
each breath a spiteful and resentful groan, as if she 
fought womanfuUy with her infirmities ; and she contin- 
ually smoked her pipe, and sent out the breath of her 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 131 

complaint visibly in that evil odor ; and sometimes slie 
murmured a little prayer, but somehow or otlier tlie evil 
and bitterness, acridity, pepperiness, of her natural dispo- 
sition overcame the acquired grace which compelled her 
to pray, insomuch that, after all, you would have thought 
the poor old woman was cursing with all her rheu- 
matic might. All the time an old, broken-nosed, brown 
eartlien jug, covered with the lid of a black teapot, stood 
on the edge of the embers, steaming forever, and some- 
times bubbling a little, and giving a great puff, as if it 
were sighing and groaning in sympathy with poor Aunt 
Keziah, and when it sighed there came a great steam 
of herby fragrance, not particularly pleasant, into the 
kitchen. And ever and anon, — half a dozen times it 
might be, — of an afternoon. Aunt Keziah took a certain 
bottle from a private receptacle of hers, and also a tea- 
cup, and likewise a little, old-fashioned silver teaspoon, 
with which she measured three teaspoonfuls of some 
spirituous liquor into the teacup, half filled the cup with 
the hot decoction, drank it off, gave a grunt of content, 
and for the space of half an hour appeared to find life 
tolerable. 

But one day poor Aunt Keziah found herself unable, 
partly from rheumatism, partly from other sickness or 
weakness, and partly from dolorous ill-spirits, to keep 
about any longer, so she betook herself to her bed ; and 
betimes in the forenoon Septimius heard a tremendous 
knocking on the floor of her bedchamber, which happened 
to be the room above his own. He was the only person 
in or about the house ; so, with great reluctance, lie left 
his studies, which were upon the recipe, in respect to 



132 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

which he was trying to make out the mode of concoction, 
which was told in such a mysterious way that he could 
not well tell eitlier the quantity of the ingredients, the 
mode of trituration, nor in what way their virtue was to 
be extracted and combined. 

Running hastily up stairs, he found Aunt Keziah lying 
in bed, and groaning with great spite and bitterness ; so 
that, indeed, it seemed not improvidential that such an 
inimical state of mind towards the human race was 
accompanied with an almost inability of motion, else it 
would not be safe to be within a considerable distance 
of her. 

" Seppy, you good-for-nothing, are you going to see me 
lying here, dying, without trying to do anything for me ? " 

" Dying, Aunt Keziah? " repeated the young man. " I 
hope not ! What can I do for you ? Shall I go for 
Rose ? or call a neighbor in ? or the doctor ? " 

*' No, no, you fool ! " said the afflicted person. " You 
can do all that anybody can for me ; and that is to put 
my mixture on the kitchen fire till it steams, and is just 
ready to bubble ; then measure three teaspoonfuls — or 
it may be four, as I am very bad — of spirit into a tea- 
cup, fill it half full, — or it may be quite full, for I am 
very bad, as I said afore ; six teaspoonfuls of spirit into 
a cup of mixture, and let me have it as soon as may be ; 
and don't break the cup, nor spill the precious mixture, 
for goodness knows when I can go into the woods to 
gather any more. Ah me ! ah me ! it 's a wicked, mis- 
erable world, and I am the most miserable creature in 
it. Be quick, you good-for-nothing, and do as I say ! " 

Septimius hastened down; but as he went, a thought 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 138 

came into liis head, wliieli it occurred to liiin might result 
in great benefit to Auut Keziah, as well as to the great 
cause of science and human good, and to the promotion 
of his own purpose, in the first place. A day or two 
ago, he had gathered several of the beautiful flowers, 
and laid them iu the fervid sun to dry ; and they now 
seemed to be in about the state in which the old woman 
was accustomed to use her herbs, so far as Septimius had 
observed. Now, if these flowers were really, as there 
was so much reason for supposing, the one ingredient 
that had for hundreds of years been missing out of Aunt 
Keziah's nostrum, — if it was this which that strange 
Indian sagamore had mingled with his drink with such 
beneficial effect, — why should not Septimius now re- 
store it, and if it would not make his beloved aunt young 
again, at least assuage the violent symptoms, and perhaps 
prolong her valuable life some years, for the solace and 
delight of her numerous friends ? Septimius, like other 
people of investigating and active minds, had a great ten- 
dency to experiment, and so good an opportunity as the 
present, where (perhaps he thought) there was so little 
to be risked at worst, and so much to be gained, was not 
to be neglected ; so, without more ado, he stirred three 
of the crimson flowers into the earthen jug, set it on the 
edge of the fire, stirred it well, and when it steamed, 
threw up little scarlet bubbles, and was about to boil, he 
measured out the spirits, as Aunt Keziah had bidden 
him, and then filled the teacup. 

" Ah, this will do her good ; little does she think, poor 
old thing, what a rare and costly medicine is about to be 
given her. This will set her on her feet again." 



13 4^ SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

The hue was somewhat changed, lie thought, from 
what he had observed of Aunt Keziah's customary decoc- 
tion ; instead of a turbid yellow, the crimson petals of 
the flower had tinged it, and made it almost red ; not a 
brilliant red, however, nor the least inviting in appear- 
ance. Septimius smelt it, and thought he could distin- 
guish a little of the rich odor of the flower, but was not 
sure. He considered whether to taste it ; but the horri- 
ble flavor of Aunt Keziah's decoction recurred strongly 
to his remembrance, and he concluded, that were he evi- 
dently at the point of death, he might possibly be bold 
enough to taste it again ; but that nothing short of the 
hope of a century's existence, at least, would repay 
another taste of that fierce and nauseous bitterness. 
Aunt Keziah loved it ; and as she brewed, so let her 
drink. 

He went up stairs, careful not to spill a drop of the 
brimming cup, and approached the old woman's bedside, 
where she lay, groaning as before, and breaking out into 
a spiteful croak the moment he was within ear-shot. 

"You don't care whether I live or die," said she. 
** You 've been waiting in hopes I shall die, and so save 
yourself further trouble." 

" By no means. Aunt Keziah," said Septimius. " Here 
is the medicine, which I have warmed, and measured out, 
and mingled, as well as I knew how ; and I think it will 
do you a great deal of good." 

" Won't you taste it, Seppy, my dear ? " said Aunt 
K«'ziah, mollified by the praise of her beloved mixture. 
*' Drink first, dear, so that my sick old lips need not 
iaint it. You look pale, Septimius ; it will do you good." 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 135 

"No, Aunt Keziah, I do not need it; and it were a 
pity to waste your precious drink," said he. 

" It does not look quite the right color," said Aunt 
Keziah, as she took the cup in her hand. " You must 
have dropped some soot into it." Then as she raised it 
to her lips, " It does not smell quite right. But, woe 's 
me ! how can I expect anybody but myself to make this 
precious drink as it should be ? " 

She drank it off at two gulps ; for she appeared to 
hurry it off faster than usual, as if not tempted by the 
exquisiteness of its flavor to dwell upon it so long. 

" You have not made it just right, Seppy," said she in 
a milder tone than before, for she seemed to feel the cus- 
tomary soothing influence of the draught, *' but you '11 
do better the next time. It had a queer taste, me- 
thought ; or is it that my mouth is getting out of taste ? 
Hard times it will be for poor Aunt Kezzy, if she 's to lose 
her taste for the medicine that, under Providence, has 
saved her life for so many years." 

She gave back the cup to Septimius, after looking a 
little curiously at the dregs. 

" It looks like bloodroot, don't it ? " said she. " Per- 
haps it 's my own fault after all. I gathered a fresh 
bunch of the yarbs yesterday afternoon, and put them to 
steep, and it may be I was a little blind, for it was be- 
tween daylight and dark, and the moon shone on me 
before I had finished. I thought how the witches used 
to gather their poisonous stuff at such times, and what 
pleasant uses they made of it, — but those are sinful 
thoughts, Seppy, sinful thoughts ! so I '11 say a prayer 
and try to go to sleep. I feel very noddy all at once." 



136 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

Septimius drew the bedclothes up about her shoulders, 
for she complained of being very chilly, and, carefully 
putting her stick within reach, went down to his own 
room, and resumed his studies, trying to make out from 
those aged hieroglyphics, to which he was now so well 
accustomed, what was the precise method of making the 
elixir of immortality. Sometimes, as men in deep thouglit 
do, he rose from his chair, and walked to and fro, the 
four or five steps or so, that conveyed him from end to 
end of his little room. At one of these times he chanced 
to look in the little looking-glass that hung between the 
windows, and was startled at the paleness of his face. 
It was quite white, indeed. Septimius was not in the 
least a foppish young man; careless he was in dress, 
though often his apparel took an unsought picturesque- 
ness that set off his slender, agile figure, perhaps from 
some quality of spontaneous arrangement that he had 
inherited from his Indian ancestry. Yet many women 
might have found a charm in that dark, thoughtful face, 
with its hidden fire and energy, although Septimius never 
thought of its being handsome, and seldom looked at it. 
Yet now he was drawn to it by seeing how strangely 
white it was, and, gazing at it, he observed that since he 
considered it last, a very deep furrow, or corrugation, or 
fissure, it might almost be called, had indented his brow, 
rising from the commencement of his nose towards the 
centre of the forehead. And he knew it was his brood- 
ing thought, his fierce, hard determination, his intense 
concentrativeness for so many months, that had been 
digging that furrow ; and it must prove indeed a potent 
specific of the life-water that would smooth that away. 



SEPTIMUS FELTOX. 187 

and restore him all the youth and elasticity that he had 
buried in that profound grave. 

But why was he so pale ? He could have supposed 
himself startled by some ghastly thing that he had just 
seen ; by a corpse in the next room, for instance ; or 
else by the foreboding that one would soon be there ; but 
yet he was conscious of no tremor in his frame, no terror 
in his heart ; as why should there be any ? Peeling his 
own pulse, he found the strong, regular beat that should 
be there. He was not ill, nor affrighted ; not expectant 
of any pain. Then why so ghastly pale? And why, 
moreover, Septimius, did you listen so earnestly for any 
sound in Aunt Keziah's chamber ? Why did you creep 
on tiptoe, once, twice, three times, up to the old woman's 
chamber, and put your ear to the keyhole, and Hsten 
breathlessly ? Well ; it must have been that he was sub- 
conscious that he was trying a bold experiment, and that 
he had taken this poor old Avoman to be the medium of 
it, in the hope, of course, that it would turn out well ; 
yet with other views than her interest in the matter. 
What was the harm of that ? Medical men, no doubt, 
are always doing so, and he was a medical man for the 
time. Then why was he so pale ? 

He sat down and fell into a revery, which perhaps was 
partly suggested by that chief furrow which he had seen, 
and which we have spoken of, in his brow. He consid- 
ered whether there was anything in this pursuit of his 
that used up life particularly fast; so that, perhaps, 
unless he were successful soon, he should be incapable 
of renewal ; for, looking within himself, and considering 
his mode of being, he had a singular fancy that his heart 



138 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

was gradually drying up, and that he must continue to 
get some moisture for it, or else it would soon be like 
a withered leaf. Supposing his pursuit were vain, what 
a waste he was making of that little treasure of golden 
days, which was his all ! Could this be called life, which 
he was leading now ? How unlike that of other young 
men ! How unlike that of Robert Hagburn, for exam- 
ple ! There had come news yesterday of his having per- 
formed a gallant part in the battle of Monmouth, and 
being promoted to be a captain for his brave conduct. 
Without thinking of long life, he really lived in heroic 
actions and emotions ; he got much life in a little, and 
did not fear to sacrifice a lifetime of torpid breaths, if 
necessary, to the ecstasy of a glorious death ! 

[/^ appears from a written sketch hij the author of this 
story, that he changed his first plan of making Septimius 
and Rose lovers, and she was to be represented as his half- 
sister, and in the copy for publication this alteration 
would have been made. — Ed.] 

And then Robert loved, too, loved his sister Rose, and 
felt, doubtless, an immortality in that passion. Why could 
not Septimius love too ? It was forbidden ! Well, no 
matter ; whom could he have loved ? Who, in all this 
world, would have been suited to his secret, brooding 
heart, that he could have let her into its mysterious 
chambers, and walked with her from one cavernous 
gloom to another, and said, " Here are my treasures. 
I make thee mistress of all these ; with all these goods I 
thee endow." And then, revealing to her his great secret 
and purpose of gaining immortal life, have said : ''' This 
shall be thine, too. Thou shalt share with me. We 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 139 

will walk along the endless path together, and keep one 
another's hearts warm, and so be content to live." 

Ah, Septimius ! but now you are getting beyond those 
rules of yours, which, cold as they are, have been 
drawn out of a subtle philosophy, and might, were it 
possible to follow them out, suffice to do all that you ask 
of them ; but if you break them, you do it at the peril 
of your earthly immortality. Each warmer and quicker 
throb of the heart wears away so much of life. The 
passions, the affections, are a wine not to be indulged 
in. Love, above all, being in its essence an immortal 
thing, cannot be long contained in an earthly body, but 
would wear it out with its own secret power, softly 
invigorating as it seems. You must be cold, therefore, 
Septimius ; you must not even earnestly and passionately 
desire this immortality that seems so necessary to you. 
Else the very wish will prevent the possibility of its 
fulfilment. 

By and by, to call him out of these rhapsodies, came 
Rose home ; and finding the kitchen hearth cold, and 
Aunt Keziah missing, and no dinner by the fire, which 
was smouldering, — nothing but the portentous earthen 
jug, which fumed, and sent out long, ill-flavored sighs, 
she tapped at Septimius's door, and asked him what was 
the matter. 

"Aunt Keziah has had an ill turn," said Septimius, 
" and has gone to bed." 

" Poor auntie ! " said Rose, with her quick sympathy. 
" I will this moment run up and see if she needs any- 
thing." 

" No, Rose," said Septimius, " she has doubtless gone 



140 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

to sleep, and will awake as well as usual. It would dis- 
please her much were you to miss your afternoon school; 
so you had better set the table with whatever there is 
left of yesterday's dinner, and leave me to take care of 
auntie." 

" Well," said Rose, " she loves you best ; but if she be 
really ill, I shall give up my school and nurse her." 

"No doubt," said Septimius, "she will be about the 
house again to-morrow." 

So Rose ate her frugal dinner (consisting chiefly of 
purslain, and some other garden herbs, which her thrifty 
aunt had prepared for boiling), and went away as usual 
to her school ; for Aunt Keziah, as aforesaid, had never 
encouraged the tender ministrations of Rose, whose or- 
derly, womanly character, with its well-defined orb of 
daily and civilized duties, had always appeared to strike 
her as tame ; and she once said to her, " You are no 
squaw, child, and you '11 never make a witch." Nor 
would she even so much as let Rose put her tea to steep, 
or do anything wliatever for herself personally ; though, 
certainly, she was not backward in requiring of her a due 
share of labor for the general housekeeping. 

Septimius was sitting in his room, as the afternoon 
wore away ; because, for some reason or other, or quite 
as likely, for no reason at all, he did not air himself and 
his thoughts, as usual, on the hill; so he was sitting 
musing, thinking, looking into his mysterious manuscript, 
when he heard Aunt Keziah moving in the chamber 
above. Eirst she seemed to rattle a chair ; then she be- 
gan a slow, regular beat with the stick which Septimius 
had left by her bedside, and which startled him strangely. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 141 

— SO that, indeed, bis heart beat faster tban the five-and- 
seventy tbrobs to which he was restricted by the wise 
rules that he had digested. So he raa hastily up stairs, 
and behold, Aunt Keziah was sitting up in bed, looking 
very wild, — so wild that you would have thought she 
was gohig to fly up chimney the next minute ; her gray 
hair all dishevelled, her eyes staring, her hands clutching 
forward, while she gave a sort of howl, what with pain 
and agitation. 

" Seppy ! Seppy ! " said she, — " Seppy, my darling ! 
are you quite sure you remember how to make that pre- 
cious drink ? " 

" Quite well. Aunt Keziah," said Septimius, inwardly 
much alarmed by her aspect, but preserving a true Indian 
composure of outward mien. "I wrote it down, and 
could say it by heart besides. Shall I make you a fresh 
pot of it ? for I have thrown away the other." 

"That was well, Seppy," said the poor old woman, 
" for there is something wrong about it ; but I want no 
more, for, Seppy dear, I am going fast out of this world, 
where you and that precious drink were my only treas- 
ures and comforts. I wanted to know if you remem- 
bered the recipe ; it is all I have to leave you, and the 
more you drink of it, Seppy, the better. Only see to 
make it right ! " 

" Dear auntie, what can I do for you ? " said Septim- 
ius, in much consternation, but still calm. " Let me run 
for the doctor, — for the neighbors ? something must be 
done ! " 

The old woman contorted herself as if there were a 
fearful time in her insides ; and griuned, and twisted the 



14-:i SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

yellow ugliness of her face, and groaned, and howled ; 
and yet there was a tough and fierce kind of endurance 
with which she fought with her anguish, and would not 
yield to it a jot, though she allowed herself the relief of 
shrieking savagely at it, — much more like a defiance 
than a cry for mercy. 

" No doctor ! no woman ! " said she ; " if my drink 
could not save me, what would a doctor's foolish pills 
and powders do ? And a woman ! If old Martha Denton, 
the witch, were alive, I would be glad to see her. But 
other women! Pah! Ah! Ai ! Oh! Phew! Ah, 
Seppy, what a mercy it would be now if I could set to 
and blaspheme a bit, and shake my fist at the sky ! But 
I 'm a Christian woman, Seppy, — a Christian woman." 

" Shall I send for the minister, Aunt Keziah ? " asked 
Septimius. " He is a good man, and a wise one." 

" No minister for me, Seppy," said Aunt Keziah, howl- 
ing as if somebody were choking her. "He may be a 
good man and a wise one, but he 's not wise enough to 
know the way to my heart, and never a man as was ! 
Eh, Seppy, I 'm a Christian woman, but I 'm not like other 
Christian women ; and I 'm glad I 'm going away from 
this stupid world. I 've not been a bad woman, and I 
deserve credit for it, for it would have suited me a great 
deal better to be bad. 0, what a delightful time a witch 
must have had, starting off up chimney on her broom- 
stick at midnight, and looking down from aloft in the sky 
on the sleeping village far below, with its steeple point- 
ing up at her, so that she might touch the golden weath- 
ercock ! You, meanwhile, in such an ecstasy, and all 
below vou the dull, innocent, sober humankind ; the wife 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 143 

sleeping by her husband, or mother by her child, squall- 
ing with wind in its stomach ; the goodman driving up his 
cattle and his plough, — all so innocent, all so stupid, with 
their dull days just alike, one after another. And you 
up in the air, sweeping away to some nook in the for- 
est ! Ha! What's that? A wizard! Ha! ha! Known 
below as a deacon ! There is Goody Chickering ! How 
quietly she sent the young people to bed after prayers ! 
There is an Indian ; there a nigger ; they all have equal 
rights and privileges at a witch-meeting. Phew ! the 
wind blows cold up here ! Why does not the Black Man 
have the meeting at his own kitchen hearth ? Ho ! ho ! 
dear me ! But I 'm a Christian woman and no witch ; 
but those must have been gallant times ! " 

Doubtless it was a partial wandering of the mind that 
took the poor old woman away on this old-witch flight ; 
and it was very curious and pitiful to witness the com- 
punction with which she returned to herself and took 
herself to task for the preference which, in her wild 
nature, she could not help giving to harum-scarum 
wickedness over tame goodness. Now she tried to com- 
pose herself, and talk reasonably and godly. 

" Ah, Septimius, my dear child, never give way to 
temptation, nor consent to be a wizard, though the 
Black Man persuade you ever so hard. I know he will 
try. He has tempted me, but I never yielded, never 
gave him his will; and never do you, my boy, though 
you, with your dark complexion, and your brooding 
brow, and your eye veiled, only when it suddenly looks 
out with a flash of fire in it, are the sort of man he seeks 
most, and tliat afterwards serves him. But don't do it, 



114) SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

Septiniius. But if you could be an Indian, metliinks it 
would be better than this tame life we lead. 'T would 
have been better for me, at all events. 0, how pleasant 
't would have been to spend my life wandering in the 
woods, smelling the pines and the hemlock all day, and 
fresh things of all kinds, and no kitchen work to do, — 
not to rake up the fire, nor sweep the room, nor make 
the beds, — but to sleep on fresh boughs in a wigwam, 
with the leaves still on the branches that made the roof! 
And then to see the deer brought in by the red hunter, 
and the blood streaming from the arrow-dart ! Ah ! 
and the fight too ! and the scalping ! and, perhaps, a 
woman might creep into the battle, and steal the wounded 
enemy away of her tribe and scalp him, and be praised 
for it ! Seppy, how I hate the thought of the dull 
life women lead ! A white woman's life is so dull ! 
Thank Heaven, I 'm done with it ! If I 'm ever to live 
again, may I be whole Indian, please my Maker ! " 

After this goodly outburst. Aunt Keziah lay quietly 
for a few moments, and her skinny claws being clasped 
together, and her yellow visage grinning, as pious an 
aspect as was attainable by her harsh and pain-distorted 
features, Septimius perceived that she was in prayer. 
And so it proved by what followed, for the old woman 
turned to him with a grim tenderness on her face, and 
stretched out her band to be taken in his own. He 
clasped the bony talon in both his hands. 

" Seppy, my dear, I feel a great peace, and I don't 
think there is so very much to trouble me in the other 
world. It won't be all house-work, and keeping decent, 
and doing like other people there. I suppose I need n't 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 145 

expect to ride on a broomstick, — that would be wrong 
in any kind of a world, — but there may be woods to 
wander in, and a pipe to smoke in the air of heaven; 
trees to hear the wind in, and to smell of, and all such 
natural, happy things ; and by and by I shall hope to see 
you there, Seppy, my darling boy ! Come by and by ; 
'tis n't worth your while to live forever, even if you 
should find out what 's wanting in the drink I 've taught 
you. I can see a little way into the next world now, and 
I see it to be far better than this heavy and wretched old 
place. You'll die when your time comes; won't you, 
Seppy, my darling ? " 

" Yes, dear auntie, when my time comes," said Sep- 
timius. " Very likely I shall want to live no longer by 
that time." 

"Likely not," said the old woman. "I'm sure I 
don't. It is like going to sleep on my mother's breast 
to die. So good night, dear Seppy ! " 

" Good night, and God bless you, aunty ! " said Sep- 
timius, with a gush of tears blinding him, spite of his 
Indian nature. 

The old woman composed herself, and lay quite still 
and decorous for a short time ; then, rousing herself a 
little, " Septimius," said she, " is there just a little drop 
of my drink left ? Not that I want to live any longer, 
but if I could sip ever so little, I feel as if I should step 
into the other world quite cheery, with it warm in my 
heart, and not feel shy and bashful at going among 
strangers." 

" Not one drop, auntie." 

** Ah, well, no matter ! It was not quite right, that 
7 J 



146 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

last cup. It had a queer taste. What could you have 
put into it, Seppy, darling ? But no matter, no matter ! 
It 's a precious stuff, if you make it right. Don't forget 
the herbs, Septimius. Something wrong had certainly 
got into it." 

These, except for some murmurings, some groanings 
and unintelligible whisperings, were the last utterances 
of poor Aunt Keziah, who did not live a great while 
longer, and at last passed away in a great sigh, like a 
gust of wind among the trees, she having just before 
stretched out her hand again and grasped that of Sep- 
timius ; and he sat watching her and gazing at her, 
wondering and horrified, touched, shocked by death, of 
which he had so unusual a terror, — and by the death of 
this creature especially, with whom he felt a sympathy 
that did not exist with any other person now living. So 
long did he sit, holding her hand, that at last he was con- 
scious that it was growing cold within his own, and that 
the stiffening fingers clutched him, as if they were dis- 
posed to keep their hold, and not forego the tie that had 
been so peculiar. 

Tlien rushing hastily forth, he told the nearest avail- 
able neighbor, who was Robert Hagburn's mother; and 
she summoned some of her gossips, and came to the 
house, and took poor Aunt Keziah in charge. They 
talked of her with no great respect, I fear, nor much sor- 
row, nor sense that the community would suffer any 
great deprivation in her loss ; for, in their view, she was a 
dram-drinking, pipe-smoking, cross-grained old maid, and, 
as some thought, a witch ; and, at any rate, with too 
much of the Indian blood in her to be of much use ; and 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 147 

they hoped that now Rose Garfield would have a pleas- 
aiiter life, and Septimius study to be a minister, and all 
things go well, and the place be cheerfuller. They found 
Aunt Keziah's bottle in the cupboard, and tasted and 
smelt of it. 

" Good West ludjy as ever I tasted," said Mrs. Hag- 
burn; "and there stands her broken pitcher, on the 
hearth. Ah, empty ! I never could bring my mind to 
taste it ; but now I 'm sorry I never did, for I suppose 
nobody in the world can make any more of it." 

Septimius, meanwhile, had betaken himself to the hill- 
top, which was his place of refuge on all occasions when 
the house seemed too stifled to contain him ; and there 
he walked to and fro, with a certain kind of calmness and 
indifference that he wondered at ; for there is liardly any- 
thing in this world so strange as the quiet surface that 
spreads over a man's mind in his greatest emergencies : 
so that he deems himself perfectly quiet, and upbraids 
himself with not feeling anything, when indeed he is pas- 
sion-stirred. As Septimius walked to and fro, he looked 
at the rich crimson flowers, which seemed to be bloom- 
ing in greater profusion and luxuriance than ever before. 
He had made an experiment with these flowers, and he 
was curious to know whetlier that experiment had been 
the cause of Aunt Keziah's death. Not that he felt 
any remorse therefor, in any case, or believed himself to 
have committed a crime, having really intended and de- 
sired nothing but good. I suppose such things (and he 
must be a lucky physician, methinks, who has no such 
mischief within his own experience) never weigh with 
deadly weight on any man's conscience. Something 



IttS SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

must be risked in the cause of science, and in desperate 
cases something must be risked for the patient's self. 
Septimius, much as he loved life, would not have hesi- 
tated to put his own life to the same risk that he had 
imposed on Aunt Keziah ; or if he did hesitate, it would 
have been only because, if the experiment turned out 
disastrously in his own person, he would not be in a 
position to make another and more successful trial ; 
whereas, by trying it ou others, the man of science still 
reserves himself for new efforts, and does not put all the 
hopes of the world, so far as involved in his success, on 
one cast of the die. 

By and by he met Sybil Dacy, who had ascended the 
hill, as was usual with lier, at sunset, and came towards 
him, gazing earnestly in his face. 

"They tell me poor Aunt Keziah is no more," said 
she. 

" She is dead," said Septimius. 

"The flower is a very famous medicine," said the 
girl, " but everything depends on its being applied in 
the proper way." 

" Do you know the way, then ? " asked Septimius. 

" No ; you should ask Doctor Portsoaken about that," 
said Sybil. 

Doctor Portsoaken ! And so he should consult him. 
That eminent chemist and scientific man had evidently 
heard of the recipe, and at all events would be acquaint- 
ed with the best methods of gettimg the virtues out of 
flowers and herbs, some of which, Septimius had read 
enough to know, were poison in one phase and shape 
of preparation, and possessed of richest virtues in others; 



SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 1J9 

their poison, as one may say, serving as a dark and ter- 
rible safeguard, which Providence has set to watch over 
their preciousuess ; even as a dragon, or some wild and 
fiendish spectre, is set to watch and keep hidden gold and 
heaped-up diamonds. A dragon always waits on every- 
thing that is very good. And what would deserve the 
watch and ward of danger of a dragon, or something 
more fatal than a dragon, if not this treasure of which 
Septiniius was in quest, and the discovery and possession 
of which would enable him to break down one of the 
strongest barriers of nature ? It ought to be death, he 
acknowledged it, to attempt such a thing; for how 
changed would be life if he should succeed ; how ne- 
cessary it was that mankind should be defended from 
such attempts on the general rule on the part of all but 
him. How could Death be spared ? — then the sire 
would live forever, and the heir never come to his in- 
heritance, and so he would at once hate his own father, 
from the perception that he would never be out of his 
way. Then the same class of powerful minds would al- 
ways rule the state, and there would never be a change 
of policy. 

[Here several pages are missing. — Ed.] 

Through such scenes Septiniius sought out the direc- 
tion that Doctor Portsoaken had given him, and came to 
the door of a house in the olden part of the town. The 
Boston of those days had very much the aspect of pro- 
vincial towns in England, such as may still be seen 
there, while our own city has undergone such wonderful 
changes that little likeness to what our ancestors made it 



150 SEPTIMIUS VELTON. 

can now be found. The streets, crooked and narrow ; 
the houses, many gabled, projecting, with latticed win- 
dows and diamond panes ; without sidewalks ; with 
rough pavements. 

Septimius knocked loudly at the door, nor had long 
to wait before a serving-maid appeared, who seemed to 
be of English nativity ; and in reply to his request for 
Doctor Portsoaken bade him come in, and led him up a 
staircase with broad landing-places ; then tapped at the 
door of a room, and was responded to by a gruff voice 
saying, " Come in ! " The woman held the door open, 
and Septimius saw the veritable Doctor Portsoaken in 
an old, faded morning-gown, and with a nightcap on his 
head, his German pipe in his mouth, and a brandy-bottle, 
to the best of our belief, on the table by his side. 

"Come in, come in," said the gruff doctor, nodding 
to Septimius. "I remember you. Come in, man, and 
tell me your business." 

Septimius did come in, but was so struck by the 
aspect of Dr. Portsoaken's apartment, and his gown, 
that he did not immediately tell his business. In the 
first place, everything looked very dusty and dirty, so 
that evidently no woman had ever been admitted into 
this sanctity of a place ; a fact made all the more evi- 
dent by the abundance of spiders, who had spun their 
webs about the walls and ceiling in the wildest apparent 
confusion, though doubtless each individual spider knew 
the cordage which he had lengthened out of his own 
miraculous bowels. But it was really strange. They 
had festooned their cordage on whatever was stationary 
in the room, making a sort of gray, dusky tapestry, that 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 151 

waved portentously in the breeze, and flapped, heavy 
and dismal, each with its spider in the centre of his own 
system. And what was most marvellous was a spider 
over the doctor's head ; a spider, I think, of some South 
American breed, with a circumference of its many legs 
as big, unless I am misinformed, as a teacup, and with 
a body in the midst as large as a dollar; giving the 
spectator horrible qualms as to what would be the conse- 
quence if this spider should be crushed, and, at the same 
time, suggesting the poisonous danger of suffering such 
a monster to live. The monster, however, sat in the 
midst of the stalwart cordage of his web, right over the 
doctor's head ; and he looked, with all those complicated 
lines, like the symbol of a conjurer or crafty politician in 
the midst of the complexity of his scheme ; and Septim- 
ius wondered if he were not the type of Dr. Portsoaken 
himself, who, fat and bloated as the spider, seemed to 
be the centre of some dark contrivance. And could it 
be that poor Septimius was typified by the fascinated fly, 
doomed to be entangled by the web ? 

" Good day to you," said the gruff doctor, taking his 
pipe from his mouth. "Here I am, with my brother 
spiders, in the midst of my web. I told you, you 
remember, the wonderful efficacy which I had discovered! 
in spiders' webs ; and this is my laboratory, where I 
have hundreds of workmen concocting my panacea for 
me. Is it not a lovely sight ? " 

" A wonderful one, at least," said Septimius. "That 
one above your head, the monster, is calculated to give 
a very favorable idea of your theory. What a quantity 
of poison there must be in him ! " 



152 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

" Poison, do you call it ? " quoth the grim doctor, 
" That 's entirely as it may be used. Doubtless his bite 
would send a man to kingdom come ; but, on the other 
hand, no one need want a better life-line than that fel- 
low's web. He and I are firm friends, and I believe he 
would know my enemies by instinct. But come, sit 
down, and take a glass of brandy. No? Well, I'll 
drink it for you. And how is the old aunt yonder, with 
her infernal nostrum, the bitterness and nauseousness of 
which my poor stomacli has not yet forgotten ? " 

" My Aunt Keziah is no more," said Septimius. 

" No more ! Well, T trust in heaven she has carried her 
secret with her," said the doctor. " If anything could 
comfort you for her loss, it would be that. But what 
brings you to Boston ? " 

" Only a dried flower or two," said Septimius, pro- 
ducing some specimens of the strange growth of the 
grave. "I want you to tell me about them." 

The naturalist took the flowers in his hand, one of 
which had the root appended, and examined them with 
great minuteness and some surprise; two or three times 
looking in Septimius's face with a puzzled and inquiring 
air ; tlien examined them again. 

" Do you tell me," said he, " that the plant has been 
found indigenous in this country, and in your part of 
it ? And in what locality ? " 

"Indigenous, so far as I know," answered Septimius. 
" As to the locality," — he hesitated a little, — " it is on 
a small hillock, scarcely bigger than a molehill, on the 
hill-top behind my house." 

The naturalist looked steadfastly at him with red, burn' 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 153 

ing eyes, under liis deep, iinpeiidiug, shaggy brows ; then 
again at the flower. 

" Elower, do you call it ? " said he, after a re-examina- 
tion. " This is no flower, though it so closely resembles 
one, and a beautiful one, — yes, most beautiful. But it 
is no flower. It is a certain very rare fungus, — so rare 
as almost to be thought fabulous ; and there are the 
strangest superstitions, coming down from ancient times, 
as to the mode of production. What sort of manure had 
been put into- that hillock ? Was it merely dried leaves, 
the refuse of the forest, or something else ? " 

Septimius hesitated a little ; but there was no reason 
why he should not disclose the truth, — as much of it as 
Doctor Portsoaken cared to know. 

"The hillock where it grew," answered he, "was a 
grave." 

"A grave! Strange! strange!" quoth Doctor Port- 
soaken. "Now these old superstitions sometimes prove 
to have a germ of truth in them, which some philosopher 
has doubtless long ago, in forgotten ages, discovered and 
made known ; but in process of time his learned memory 
passes away, but the truth, undiscovered, survives him, 
and the people get hold of it, and make it the nucleus of 
all sorts of folly. So it grew out of a grave ! Yes, yes ; 
and probably it would have grown out of any other dead 
flesh, as well as that of a human being; a dog would have 
answered the purpose as well as a man. You must know 
that the seeds of fungi are scattered so universally over 
the world that, only comply with the conditions, and you 
will produce them everywhere. Prepare the bed it loves, 
and a mushroom will spring up spontaneously, an excel- 
7* 



15Jj SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

lent food, like manna from heaven. So superstition says, 
kill your deadliest enemy, and plant him, and he will 
come up in a delicious fungus, which I presume to be 
this ; steep him, or distil him, and he will make an elixir 
of life for you. I suppose there is some foolish symbol- 
ism or other about the matter ; but the fact I af&rm to 
be nonsense. Dead flesh under some certain conditions 
of rain and sunshine, not at present ascertained by 
science, will produce the fungus, whether the manure be 
friend, or foe, or cattle." 

" And as to its medical efficacy ? " asked Septimius. 

" That may be great for aught I know," said Port- 
soaken ; " but I am content with my cobwebs. You 
may seek it out for yourself. But if the poor fellow lost 
his life in the supposition that he might be a useful in- 
gredient in a recipe, you are rather an unscrupulous 
practitioner." 

" The person whose mortal relics fill that grave," said 
Septimius, " was no enemy of mine (no private enemy, I 
mean, though he stood among the enemies of my coun- 
try), nor had I anything to gain by his death. I strove 
to avoid aiming at his life, but he compelled me." 

"Many a chance shot brings down the bird," said 
Doctor Portsoaken. " You say you had no interest in 
his death. We shall see that in the end." 

Septimius did not try to follow the conversation among 
the mysterious hints with which the doctor chose to in- 
volve it ; but he now sought to gain some information 
from him as to the mode of preparing the recipe, and 
whether he thought it would be most efficacious as a de- 
coction, or as a distillation. The learned chemist sup- 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 155 

ported most decidedly the latter opinion, and showed 
Septimius how he might make for himself a simpler appa- 
ratus, with no better aids tlian Aunt Keziali's teakettle, 
and one or two trifling things, which the doctor himself 
supplied, by which all might be done with every neces- 
sary scrupulousness. 

" Let me look again at the formula," said he. *' Tliere 
are a good many minute directions that appear trifling, 
but it is not safe to neglect any minutise in the prepara- 
tion of an affair like this ; because, as it is all mysterious 
and unknown ground together, we cannot tell which may 
be the important and efficacious part. For instance, 
when all else is done, the recipe is to be exposed seven 
days to the sun at noon. That does not look very impor- 
tant, but it may be. Then again, ' Steep it in moonlight 
during the second quarter.' That 's all moonshine, one 
would think ; but there 's no saying. It is singular, with 
such preciseness, that no distinct directions are given 
whether to infuse, decoct, distil, or what other w^ay ; but 
my advise is to distil." 

" I will do it," said Septimius, *' and not a direction 
shall be neglected." 

" I shall be curious to know the result," said Doctor 
Portsoaken, " and am glad to see the zeal with which you 
enter into the matter. A very valuable medicine may be 
recovered to science through your agency, and you may 
make your fortune by it ; though, for my part, I prefer 
to trust to my cobwebs. This spider, now, is not he a 
lovely object ? See, he is quite capable of knowledge and 
aff'ection." 

There seemed, in fact, to be some mode of communica- 



156 SEPTIMIUS FELTON". 

tion between the doctor and his spider, for on some sign 
given by the former, imperceptible to Septimius, the 
many-legged monster let himself down by a cord, which 
he extemporized out of his own bowels, and came dang- 
ling his huge bulk down before his master's face, while 
the latter lavished many epithets of endearment upon 
him, ludicrous, and not without horror, as applied to 
such a hideous production of nature. 

" I assure you," said Doctor Portsoaken, " I run some 
risk from my intimacy with this lovely jewel, and if I 
behave not all the more prudently, your countrymen 
will hang me for a wizard, and annihilate this precious 
spider as my familiar. There would be a loss to the 
world ; not small in my own case, but enormous in the 
case of the spider. Look at him now, and see if the 
mere uninstructed observation does not discover a won- 
derful value in him." 

In truth, when looked at closely, the spider really 
showed that a care and art had been bestowed upon his 
make, not merely as regards curiosity, but absolute 
beauty, that seemed to indicate that he must be a rather 
distinguished creature in the view of Providence; so 
variegated was he with a thousand minute spots, spots 
of color, glorious radiance, and such a brilliance was 
attained by many conglomerated brilliancies ; and it was 
very strange that all this care was bestowed on a crea- 
ture that, probably, had never been carefully considered 
except by the two pair of eyes that were now upon it ; 
and that, in spite of its beauty and magnificence, could 
only be looked at with an effort to overcome the mys- 
terious repulsiveness of its presence ; for all the time 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 157 

that Septimius looked and admired, he still hated tlie 
thing, and thought it wrong that it was ever born, and 
wished that it could be annihilated. Whether the spider 
was conscious of the wish, we are unable to say ; tkut 
certainly Septimius felt as if he were hostile to him, and 
had a mind to sting him ; and, in fact, Doctor Port- 
soaken seemed of the same opinion. 

" Aha, my friend," said he, " I would advise you not 
to come too near Orontes ! He is a lovely beast, it is 
true ; but in a certain recess of this splendid form of 
his he keeps a modest supply of a certain potent and 
piercing poison, which would produce a wonderful effect 
on any flesh to which he chose to apply it. A powerful 
fellow is Orontes ; and he has a great sense of his own 
dignity and importance, and will not allow it to be im- 
posed on." 

Septimius moved from the vicinity of the spider, who, 
in fact, retreated, by climbing up his cord, and en- 
sconced himself in the middle of his web, where he 
remained waiting for his prey. Septimius wondered 
whether the doctor were symbolized by the spider, and 
was likewise waiting in the middle of his web for his 
prey. As he saw no way, however, in which the doctor 
could make a profit out of himself, or how he could be 
victimized, the thought did not much disturb his equa- 
nimity. He was about to take his leave, but the doctor, 
in a derisive kind of way, bade him sit still, for he pur- 
posed keeping him as a guest, that night, at least. 

" I owe you a dinner," said he, " and will pay it with 
a supper and knowledge ; and before we part I liave 
certain inquiries to make, of which you may not at Grst 



158 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

see the object, but yet are not quite purposeless. My 
familiar, up aloft there, has whispered me something 
about you, and I rely greatly on his intimations." 

Septimius, who was sufficiently common-sensible, and 
invulnerable to superstitious influences on every point 
except that to which he had surrendered himself, was 
easily prevailed upon to stay ; for he found the sin- 
gular, charlatanic, mysterious lore of the man curious, 
and he had enough of real science to at least make him 
an object of interest to one who knew nothing of the 
matter; and Septimius's acuteness, too, was piqued in 
trying to make out what manner of man he really was, 
and how much in him was genuine science and self-belief, 
and how much quackery and pretension and conscious 
empiricism. So he stayed, and supped with the doctor 
at a table heaped more bountifully, and with rarer dain- 
ties, than Septimius had ever before conceived of; and 
in his simpler cognizance, heretofore, of eating merely to 
live, he could not but wonder to see a man of thought 
caring to eat of more than one dish, so that most of the 
meal, on his part, was spent in seeing the doctor feed and 
hearing him discourse upon his food. 

" If man lived only to eat," quoth the doctor, " one 
life would not suffice, not merely to exhaust the pleasure 
of it, but even to get the rudiments of it." 

When this important business was over, the doctor and 
his guest sat down again in his laboratory, where the 
former took care to have his usual companion, the black 
bottle, at his elbow, and filled his pipe, and seemed to 
feel a certain sullen, genial, fierce, brutal, kindly mood 
enough, and looked at Septimius with a sort of friend- 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 159 

ship, as if he had as lief shake hands with him as knock 
him down. 

" Now for a talk about business," said he. 

Septimius thought, however, that the doctor's talk 
began, at least, at a sufficient remoteness from any prac- 
tical business ; for he began to question about his remote 
ancestry, what he knew, or what record had been pre- 
served, of the first emigrant from England; whence, 
from what shire or part of England, that ancestor had 
come ; whether there were any memorial of any kind re- 
maining of him, any letters or written documents, wills, 
deeds, or other legal paper ; in short, all about him. 

Septimius could not satisfactorily see whether these 
inquiries were made with any definite purpose, or from a 
mere general curiosity to discover how a family of early 
settlement in America might still be linked with the old 
country ; whether there were any tendrils stretching 
across the gulf of a hundred and fifty years by which 
the American branch of the family was separated from 
the trunk of the family tree in England. The doctor 
partly explained this. 

" You must know," said he, " that the name you bear, 
Eelton, is one formerly of much eminence and repute in 
my part of England, and, indeed, very recently possessed 
of wealth and station. I should like to know if you are 
of that race." 

Septimius answered with such facts and traditions as 
had come to his knowledge respecting his family history ; 
a sort of history that is quite as liable to be mythical, 
in its early and distant stages, as that of Rome, and, in- 
deed, seldom goes three or four generations back wi^^hout 



160 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

getting iuto a mist really impenetrable, though great, 
gloomy, and magnificent shapes of men often seem to 
loom in it, who, if they could be brought close to the 
naked eye, would turn out as commonplace as the de- 
scendants who wonder at and admire them. He remem- 
bered Aunt Keziah's legend, and said he had reason to 
believe that his first ancestor came over at a somewhat 
earlier date than the first Puritan settlers, and dwelt 
among the Indians, where (and here the young man cast 
down his eyes, having the customary American abhor- 
rence for any mixture of blood) he had intermarried 
with the daughter of a sagamore, and succeeded to his 
rule. This might have happened as early as the end of 
Elizabeth's reign, perhaps later. It was impossible to 
decide dates on such a matter. There had been a son 
of this connection, perhaps more than one, but certainly 
one son, who, on the arrival of the Puritans, was a 
youth, his father appearing to have been slain in some 
outbreak of the tribe, perhaps owing to the jealousy of 
prominent chiefs, at seeing their natural authority ab- 
rogated or absorbed by a man of different race. He 
slightly alluded to the supernatural attributes that gath- 
ered round this predecessor, but in a way to imply that 
he put no faith in them ; for Septimius's natural keen 
sense and perception kept him from betraying his weak- 
nesses to the doctor, by the same instinctive and subtle 
caution with which a madman can so well conceal his 
infirmity. 

On the arrival of the Puritans, they had found among 
the Indians a youth partly of their own blood, able, 
though imperfectly, to speak their language, — having, 



S5EPTIMIUS FELTON. 161 

at least, some early recollections of it, — inheriting, also, 
a share of influence over the tribe on which his father 
had grafted him. It was natural that they should pay 
especial attention to this youth, consider it their duty to 
give him religious instruction in the faith of his fathers, 
and try to use him as a means of influencing his tribe. 
They did so, but did not succeed in swaying the tribe 
by his means, their success having been limited to win- 
ning the half-Indian from the wild ways of his mother's 
people, into a certain partial, but decent accommodation 
to those of the English. A tendency to civilization was 
brought out in his character " by their rigid training; at 
least, his savage wildness was broken. He built a house 
among them, with a good deal of the wigwam, no doubt, 
in its style of architecture, but still a permanent house, 
near which he established a corn-field, a pumpkin-garden, 
a melon-patch, and became farmer enough to be entitled 
to ask the hand of a Puritan maiden. There he spent his 
life, with some few instances of temporary relapse into sav- 
age wildness, when he fished in the river Musquehannah, 
or in Walden, or strayed in the woods, when he should 
have been planting or hoeing ; but, on the whole, the 
race had been redeemed from barbarism in his person, 
and in the succeedmg generations had been tamed more 
and more. The second generation had been distin- 
guished in the Indian wars of the provinces, and then 
intermarried with the stock of a distinguished Puritan 
divine, by which means Septimius could reckon great 
and learned men, scholars of old Cambridge, among his 
ancestry on one side, while on the other it ran up to 
the early emigrants, wlio seemed to have been remarka- 

K 



162 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

ble men, and to that strange wild lineage of Indian 
chiefs, whose blood was like that of persons not quite 
human, intermixed with civilized blood. 

"I wonder," said the doctor, musingly, "whether 
there are really no documents to ascertain the epoch at 
which that old first emigrant came over, and whence he 
came, and precisely from what English family. Often 
the last heir of some respectable name dies in England, 
and we say that the family is extinct; whereas, very 
possibly, it may be abundantly flourishing in the New 
World, revived by the rich infusion of new blood in a 
new soil, instead of growing feebler, heavier, stupider, 
each year by sticking to an old soil, intermarrying over 
and over again with the same respectable families, till it 
has made common stock of all their vices, weaknesses, 
madnesses. Have you no documents, I say, no muni- 
ment deed ? " 

" None," said Septimius. 

" No old furniture, desks, trunks, chests, cabinets ? " 

" You must remember," said Septimius, " that my 
Indian ancestor was not very likely to have brought 
such things out of the forest with him. A wandering 
Indian does not carry a chest of papers with him. I 
do remember, in my childhood, a little old iron-bound 
chest, or coffer, of which the key was lost, and which 
my Aunt Keziah used to say came down from her great- 
great-grandfather. I don't know what has become of it, 
aj}.d my poor old aunt kept it among her own treasures." 

" Well, my friend, do you hunt up that old coffer, and, 
just as a matter of curiosity, let me see the contents." 

" I have other things to do," said Septimius. 



SEPTIMIVS FELTON. 163 

" Perhaps so," quotli the /^loctor, " but no other, as it 
n^^y turn out, of quite so much importance as this, I '11 
tell you fairly; the heir of a great English house is 
lately dead, and the estate lies open to any well-sus- 
tained, perhaps to any plausible claimant. If it should 
appear from the records of that family, as I have some 
reason to suppose, that a member of it, who would now 
represent the older branch, disappeared mysteriously and 
unaccountably, at a date corresponding with what might 
be ascertained as that of your ancestor's first appearance 
in this country ; if any reasonable proof can be brought 
forward, on the part of the representatives of that white 
sagamore, that wizard pow-wow, or however you call 
him, tha( he was the disappearing Englishman, why, a, 
good case i? midc out. Do you feel no interest in such 
a prospect ? " 

" Very little, T confess," said Septimius. 

" Very little ! " said the grim doctor, impatiently. 
" Do not you see that, if you make good your claim, 
you establish for yourself a position among the Enghsh 
aristocracy, and succeed to a noble English estate, an 
ancient hall, where your forefathers have dwelt since 
the Conqueror ; splendid gardens, hereditary woods and 
parks, to which anything Amevica can show is despi- 
cable, — all thoroughly cultivat^-d and adorned, with the 
care and ingenuity of centuries ; «nd an income, a month 
of which would be greater wealth than any of your 
American ancestors, raking and scaping for his life 
time, has ever got together, as the accunmhted result o^ 
the toil and penury by which he has sacrificed body f*nd 
soul ? " 



164 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

" That strain of Indian blood is in me yet," said Sep- 
timius, "and it makes me despise, — no, not despise; 
for I can see their desirableness for other people, — but 
it makes me reject for myself what you think so valuable. 
I do not care for these common aims. I have ambition, 
but it is for prizes such as other men cannot gain, and 
do not think of aspiring after. I could not live in the 
habits of English life, as I conceive it to be, and would 
not, for my part, be burdened with the great estate you 
speak of. It might answer my purpose for a time. It 
would suit me well enough to try that mode of life, as 
well as a hundred others, but only for a time. It is of 
no permanent importance." 

" I '11 tell you what it is, young man," said the doctor, 
testily, " you have something in your brain that makes 
you talk very foolishly; and I have partly a suspicion 
what it is, — only I can't think that a fellow who is really 
gifted with respectable sense, in other directions, should 
be such a confounded idiot in this." 

Septimius blushed, but held his peace, and the conver- 
sation languished after this ; the doctor grimly smoking 
his pipe, and by no means increasing the milkiness of his 
mood by frequent applications to the black' bottle, until 
Septimius intimated that he would like to go to bed. 
The old woman was summoned, and ushered him to his 
cliamber. 

At breakfast, the doctor partially renewed the subject 
which he seemed to consider most important in yester- 
day's conversation. 

" My young friend," said he, " I advise you to look in 
cellar and garret, or wherever you consider the most 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 165 

likely place, for that iron-bound coffer. There may be 
nothing in it ; it may be full of musty love-letters, or old 
sermons, or receipted bills of a hundred years ago ; but 
it may contain what will be worth to you an estate of five 
thousand pounds a year. It is a pity the old woman 
with the damnable decoction is gone off. Look it up, 
I say." 

" Well, well," said Septimius, abstractedly, " M^hen I 
can find time." 

So saying, he took his leave, and retraced his way 
back to his home. He had not seemed like himself dur- 
ing the time that elapsed since he left it, and it appeared 
an infinite space that he had lived through and travelled 
over, and he fancied it hardly possible that he could ever 
get back again. But now, with every step that he took, 
he found himself getting miserably back into the old 
enchanted land. The mist rose up about him, the pale 
mist-bow of ghostly promise curved before him ; and he 
trod back again, poor boy, out of the clime of real effort, 
into the land of his dreams and shadowy enterprise. 

" How was it," said he, " that I can have been so un- 
true to my convictions ? Whence came that dark and 
dull despair that weighed upon me ? Why did I let the 
mocking mood which I was conscious of in that brutal, 
brandy-burnt sceptic have such an influence on me ? 
Let him guzzle 1 He shall not tempt me from my pur- 
suit, with his lure of an estate and name among those 
heavy English beef-eaters of whom he is a brother. My 
destiny is one which kings might envy, and strive in vain 
to buy with principalities and kingdoms." 

So he trod on air almost, in the latter parts of his 



166 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

journey, and instead of being wearied, grew more airy 
with the latter miles that brought him to his wayside 
home. 

So now Septimius sat down and began in earnest his 
endeavors and experiments to prepare the medicine, ac- 
cording to the mysterious terms of the recipe. It seemed 
not possible to do it, so many rebuffs and disappointments 
did he meet with. No effort would produce a combina- 
tion answering to the description of the recipe, which 
propounded a brilliant, gold-colored liquid, clear as the 
air itself, with a certain fragrance which was peculiar to 
it, and also, what was the more individual test of the 
correctness of the mixture, a certain coldness of the feel- 
ing, a chillness which was described as peculiarly re- 
freshing and invigorating. With all his trials, he pro- 
duced nothing but turbid results, clouded generally, or 
lacking something in color, and never that fragrance, and 
never that coldness which was to be the test of truth. 
He studied all the books of chemistry which at that 
period were attainable, — a period when, in the world, it 
was a science far unlike what it has since become ; and 
when Septimius had no instruction in this country, nor 
could obtain any beyond the dark, mysterious, cliarla- 
tanic communications of Doctor Portsoaken. So that, in 
fact, he seemed to be discovering for himself the science 
tlirough which he was to work. He seemed to do every- 
thing that was stated in the recipe, and yet no results 
came from it ; the Hquid that he produced was nauseous 
to the smell, — to taste it he had a horrible repugnance, 
turbid, nasty, reminding him in most respects of poot 
Aunt Keziah's elixir ; and it was a body without a soul, 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 167 

and tliat body dead. And so it went on ; and tlie poor, 
half-maddened Septimius began to think that his immor- 
tal life was preserved by the mere effort of seeking for it, 
but was to be spent in the quest, and was therefore to be 
made an eternity of abortive misery. He pored over tlie 
document that had so possessed him, turning its crabbed 
meanings every way, trying to get out of it some new 
liglit, often tempted to fling it into the fire which he kept 
under his retort, and let the whole thing go ; but then 
again, soon rising out of that black depth of despair, into 
a determination to do what he had so long striven for. 
With such intense action of mind as he brought to bear 
on this paper, it is wonderful that it was not spiritually 
distilled ; that its essence did not arise, purified from all 
alloy of falsehood, from all turbidness of obscurity and 
ambiguity, and from a pure essence of truth and invigo- 
rating motive, if of any it were capable. In this interval, 
Septimius is said by tradition to have found out many 
wonderful secrets that were almost beyond the scope of 
science. It was said that old Aunt Keziah used to come 
with a coal of fire from unknown furnaces, to light his 
distilling apparatus ; it was said, too, that the ghost of 
the old lord, whose ingenuity had propounded this puzzle 
for his descendants, used to come at midnight and strive 
to explain to him this manuscript ; that the Black Man, 
too, met him on the hill-top, and promised him an imme- 
diate release from his difficulties, provided he would 
kneel down and worship him, and sign his name in his 
book, an old, iron-clasped, much-worn volume, which he 
produced from his ample pockets, and showed him in it 
the names of many a man whose name has become his- 



108 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

toric, and above whose ashes kept watch an inscription 
testifying to his virtues and devotion, — old autographs, 
— for the Black Man was the original autograph col- 
lector. 

But these, no doubt, were foolish stories, conceived 
and propagated in chimney-corners, while yet there were 
chimney-corners and firesides, and smoky flues. There 
was no truth in such things, I am sure ; the Black Man 
had changed his tactics, and knew better than to lure 
the human soul thus to come to him with his musty 
autograph-book. So Septimius fought with his difficulty 
by himself, as many a beginner in science has done 
before him ; and to his efforts in this Way are popularly 
attributed many herb-drinks, and some kinds of spruce- 
beer, and nostrums used for rheumatism, sore throat, 
and typhus fever ; but I rather think they all came from 
Aunt Keziah ; or perhaps, like jokes to Joe Miller, all 
sorts of quaok medicines, flocking at large through the 
community, are assigned to hhn or her. The people 
have a little mistaken the character and purpose of poor 
Septimius, and remember him as a quack doctor, instead 
of a seeker for a secret, not the less sublime and ele- 
vating because it happened to be unattainable. 

I know not through what medium or by what means, 
but it got noised abroad that Septimius was engaged in 
some mysterious work; and, indeed, his seclusion, his 
absorption, his indifference to all that was going on in 
that weary time of war, looked strange enough to indi- 
cate that it must be some most important business that 
engrossed him. On the few occasions when he came out 
from his immediate haunts into the village, he had a 



SEPTIjVIIUS felton. 169 

strange, owl-like appearance, uncombed, unbruslied, liis 
hair long and tangled ; his face, they said, darkened with 
smoke ; his cheeks pale ; the indentation of his brow 
deeper than ever before ; an earnest, haggard, sulking 
look ; and so he went hastily along the village street, 
feeling as if all eyes might find out what he had in 
his mind from his appearance; taking by-ways where 
they were to be found, going long distances through 
woods and fields, rather than short ones where the way 
lay through the frequented haunts of men. For he 
shunned the glances of his fellow-men, probably because 
he had learnt to consider them not as fellows, because he 
was seeking to withdraw himself from the common bond 
and destiny, — because he felt, too, that on that account 
his fellow-men would consider him as a traitor, an en- 
emy, one who had deserted their cause, and tried to with- 
draw his feeble shoulder from under that great burden 
of death which is imposed on all men to bear, and which, 
if one could escape, each other would feel his load pro- 
portionably heavier. With these beings of a moment 
he had no longer any common cause ; they must go their 
separate ways, yet apparently the same, — they on the 
broad, dusty, beaten path, that seemed always full, but 
from which continually they so strangely vanished into 
invisibility, no one knowing, nor long inquiring, what 
had become of them ; lie on his lonely path, where he 
should tread secure, with no trouble but the loneliness 
which would be none to him. For a little while he 
would seem to keep them company, but soon they would 
all drop away, the minister, his accustomed townspeople, 
Robert Hagburn, Rose, Sybil Dacy, — all leaving liim iu 



170 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

blessed uuknownness to adopt new temporary relations, 
and take a new course. 

Sometimes, however, tlie prospect a little chilled him. 
Could he give them all up, — the sweet sister ; the friend 
of his childhood ; the grave instructor of his youth ; the 
homely, life-known faces ? Yes ; there were such rich 
possibilities in the future : for he would seek out the 
noblest minds, the deepest hearts in every age, and be 
the friend of human time. Only it might be sweet to 
have one unchangeable companion ; for, unless he strung 
the pearls and diamonds of life upon one unbroken affec- 
tion, he sometimes thought that his life would have noth- 
ing to give it unity and identity ; and so the longest life 
would be but an aggregate of insulated fragments, which 
would have no relation to one another. And so it would 
not be one life, but many unconnected ones. Unless he 
could look into the same eyes, through the mornings of 
future time, opening and blessing him with the fresh 
gleam of love and joy ; unless the same sweet voice could 
melt his thoughts together; unless some sympathy of a 
life side by side with his could knit them into one ; look- 
ing back upon the same things, looking forward to the 
same ; the long, thin thread of an individual life, stretch- 
ing onward and onward, would cease to be visible, cease 
to be felt, cease, by and by, to have any real bigness in 
proportion to its length, and so be virtually non-existent, 
except in the mere inconsiderable Now. If a group of 
chosen friends, chosen out of all the world for their adapt- 
edness, could go on in endless life together, keeping 
themselves mutually warm on the high, desolate way, 
then none of them need ever sigrli to be comforted in the 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 171 

pitiable snugness of the grave. If one especial soul might 
be his companion, then how complete the fence of mutual 
arms, the warmth of close-pressing breast to breast ! 
Might there be one ! 0, Sybil Dacy ! 

Perhaps it could not be. Who but himself could un- 
dergo that great trial, and hardship, and self-denial, and 
firm purpose, never wavering, never sinking for a mo- 
ment, keeping his grasp on life like one who holds up by 
main force a sinking and drowning friend ? — how could 
a woman do it ! He must then give up the thought. 
There was a choice, — friendship, and the love of woman, 

— the long life of immortality. There was something 
heroic and ennobling in choosing the latter. And so he 
walked with the mysterious girl on the hill-top, and sat 
down beside her on the grave, which still ceased not to 
redden, portentously beautiful, with that unnatural flower, 

— and they talked together ; and Septirnius looked on her 
weird beauty, and often said to himself, " This, too, will 
pass away ; she is not capable of what I am, she is a wo- 
man. It must be a manly and courageous and forcible 
spirit, vastly rich in all three particulars, that has strength 
enough to live ! Ah, is it surely so ? There is such a 
dark sympathy between us, she knows me so well, she 
touches my inmost so at unawares, that 1 could almost 
think 1 had a companion here. Perhaps not so soon. At 
the end of centuries 1 might wed one ; not now." 

But once he said to Sybil Dacy, " Ah, how sweet it 
would be — sweet for me, at least — if this intercourse 
might last forever ! " 

" That is an awful idea that you present," said Sybil, 
with a hardly perceptible, involuntary shudder; "always 



172 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

ou this hill-top, always passing and repassing tliis little 
hillock ; always smelling these flowers ! I always looking 
at this deep chasm in your brow ; you always seeing my 
bloodless cheek ! — doing this till these trees crumble 
away, till perhaps a new forest grew up wherever this 
white race had planted, and a race of savages again pos- 
sess the soil. I should not like it. My mission here is 
but for a short time, and will soon be accomphshed, and 
then I go." 

" You do not rightly estimate the way in which the 
long time might be spent," said Septimius. " We would 
find out a thousand uses of this world, uses and enjoy- 
ments which now men never dream of, because the world 
is just held to their mouths, and then snatched away 
again, before they have time hardly to taste it, instead of 
becoming acquainted with the deliciousness of this great 
world-fruit. But you speak of a mission, and as if you 
were now in performance of it. Will you not tell me 
what it is ? " 

"No," said Sybil Dacy, smiling on him. ''But one 
day you shall know what it is, — none sooner nor better 
than you, — so much I promise you." 

" Are we friends ? " asked Septimius, somewhat puz- 
zled by her look. 

" We have an intimate relation to one another," replied 
Sybil. 

"And what is it ? " demanded Septimius. 

"That will appear hereaftq^-," answered Sybil, again 
smiling on him. 

He knew not what to make of this, nor whether to be 
exalted or depressed ; but, at all events, there seemed to 



SEPTOIIUS l^^ELTON. 173 

be an accordance, a striking together, a mutual touch of 
their two natures, as if, somehow or other, they were per- 
forming the same part of solemn music ; so that he felt 
his soul thrill, and at the same time shudder. Some sort 
of sympathy there surely was, but of what nature he 
could not tell ; though often he was impelled to ask him- 
self the same question he asked Sybil, " Are we friends ? " 
because of a sudden shock and repulsion that came be- 
tween them, and passed away in a moment ; and there 
would be Sybil, smiling askance on him. 

And then he toiled away again at his chemical pur- 
suits ; tried to mingle things harmoniously that appar- 
ently were not born to be mingled ; discovering a science 
for himself, and mixing it up with absurdities that other 
chemists had long ago flung aside ; but still there would 
be that turbid aspect, still that lack of fragrance, still 
that want of the peculiar temperature, that was an- 
nounced as the test of the matter. Over and over 
again, he set the crystal vase in the sun, and let it 
stay there the appointed time, hoping that it would 
digest in such a manner as to bring about the desired 
result. 

One day, as it happened, his eyes fell upon the silver 
key which he had taken from the breast of the dead young 
man, and he thought within himself that this might have 
something to do with the seemingly unattainable success 
of his pursuit. He remembered, for the first time, the 
grim doctor's emphatic injunction to search for the little 
iron-bound box of which he had spoken, and which had 
come down with s^ich legends attached to it; as, for 
instance, that it held the Devil's bond with his great- 



174 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

great-grandfather, now cancelled by the surrender of the 
latter's soul ; that it held the golden key of Paradise ; 
that it was full of old gold, or of the dry leaves of a 
hundred years ago ; that it had a familiar friend in it, 
who would be exorcised by the turning of the lock, but 
would otherwise remain a prisoner till the solid oak of 
the box mouldered, or the iron rusted away ; so that 
between fear and the loss of the key, this curious old 
box had remained unopened, till itself was lost. 

But now Septimius, putting together what Aunt Ke- 
ziah had said in her dying moments, and what Doctor 
Portsoaken had insisted upon, suddenly came to the 
conclusion that the possession of the old iron box might 
be of the greatest importance to him. So he set himself 
at once to think where he had last seen it. Aunt Ke- 
ziah, of course, had put it away in some safe place or 
other, either in cellar or garret, no doubt ; so Septim- 
ius, in the intervals of his other occupations, devoted 
several days to the search ; and not to weary the reader 
with the particulars of the quest for an old box, suffice 
it to say that he at last found it, amongst various other 
antique rubbish, in a corner of the garret. 

It was a very rusty old thing, not more than a foot in 
length, and half as much in height and breadth ; but 
most ponderously iron-bound, with bars, and corners, 
and all sorts of fortification ; looking very much like an 
ancient alms-box, such as are to be seen in the older 
rural churches of England, and which seem to intimate 
great distrust of those to whom the funds are com- 
mitted. Indeed, there might be a shrewd suspicion that 
some ancient church beadle among Septimius's forefa- 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 175 

thers, when emigrating from England, had taken the 
opportunity of bringing the poor-box along with him. 
On looking close, too, there were rude embellishments on 
the lid and sides of the box in long-rusted steel, designs 
such as the Middle Ages were rich in ; a representation 
of Adam and Eve, or of Satan and a soul, nobody could 
tell which; but, at any rate, an illustration of great value 
and interest. Septimius looked at this ugly, rusty, pon- 
derous old box, so worn and battered with time, and recol- 
lected with a scornful smile the legends of which it was 
the object ; all of which he despised and discredited, just 
as much as he did that story in the " Arabian Nights," ' 
where a demon comes out of a copper vase, in a cloud of 
smoke that covers the sea-shore ; for he was singularly 
invulnerable to all modes of superstition, all nonsense, ex- 
cept his own. But that one mode was ever in full force 
and operation with him. He felt strongly convinced that 
inside the old box was something that appertained to his 
destiny ; the key that he had taken from the dead man's 
breast, had that come down through time, and across the 
sea, and had a man died to bring and deliver it to him, 
merely for nothing ? It could not be. 

He looked at the old, rusty, elaborated lock of the 
little receptacle. It was much flourished about with 
what was once polished steel ; and certainly, when thus 
polished, and the steel bright with which it was hooped, 
defended, and inlaid, it must have been a thing fit to 
appear in any cabinet; though now the oak was worm- 
eaten as an old cofiin, and the rust of the iron came oft* 
red on Septimius's fingers, after he had been fumbling 
at it. He looked at the curious old silver key too, and 



176 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

laiicied that lie discovered in its elaborate handle some 
likeness to the ornaments about the box ; at any rate, 
this he determined was the key of fate, and he was just 
applying it to the lock, when somebody tapped famil- 
iarly at the door, having opened the outer one, and 
stepped in with a manly stride. Septimius, inwardly 
blaspheming, as secluded men are apt to do when any 
interruption comes, and especially when it comes at some 
critical moment of projection, left the box as yet uu- 
broached, and said, " Come in." 

The door opened, and Robert Hagburn entered ; look- 
ing so tall and stately, that Septimius hardly knew him 
for the youth with whom he had grown up familiarly. 
He had on the Revolutionary dress of buff and blue, with 
-decorations that to the initiated eye denoted him an 
officer, and certainly there was a kind of authority in 
his look and manner, indicating that heavy responsi- 
bilities, critical moments, had educated him, and turned 
the ploughboy into a man. 

" Is it you ? " exclaimed Septimius. " I scarcely 
knew you. How war has altered you ! " 

*' And I may say. Is it you ? for you are much altered 
likewise, my old friend. Study wears upon you terribly. 
You will be an old man, at this rate, before you know 
you are a young one. You will kill yourself, as sure as 
a gun ! " 

" Do you think so ? " said Septimius, rather startled, 
for the queer absurdity of the position struck him, if he 
should so exhaust and wear himself as to die, just at the 
moment when he should have found out the secret of 
everlasting life. *' But though I look pale, I am very 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 177 

vigorous. Judging from that scar, slanting down from 
your temple, you have been nearer death than you now 
think me, though in another way." 

" Yes," said Robert Hagburn ; " but in hot blood, and 
for a good cause, who cares for death ? And yet I love 
life ; none better, while it lasts, and I love it in all its 
looks and turns and surprises ; — there is so much to be 
got out of it, in spite of all that people say. Youth is 
sweet, v\^ith its fiery enterprise, and I suppose mature 
manhood will be just as much so, though in a calmer 
way, and age, quieter still, will have its own merits ; — 
the thing is only to do with life what we ought, and what 
is suited to each of its stages ; do all, enjoy all, — and I 
suppose these two rules amount to the same thing. Only 
catch real earnest hold of life, not play with it, and not 
defer one part of it for the sake of another, tuen each 
part of life will do for us what was intended. People 
talk of the hardships of military service, of the miseries 
that we undergo fighting for our country. I have under- 
gone my share, I believe, — hard toil in the wilderness, 
hunger, extreme weariness, pinching cold, the torti re of 
a w^ound, peril of death ; and really I have been as Lappy 
through it as ever I was at my mother's cosey fireside of 
a winter's evening. If I had died, I doubt not my last 
moments would have been happy. There is no use of 
life, but just to find out what is fit for us to do ; and, 
doing it, it seems to be little matter whether we live or 
die in it. God does not want our work, but only our 
willingness to work ; at least, the last seems to answer 
all his purposes." 

"This is a comfortable philosophy of yours," said 

8* L. 



178 SEPTIxMIUS FELTON. 

Septimius, rather contemptuously, and yet enviously. 
" Where did you get it, Robert ? " 

" Where ? Nowhere ; it came to me on the march ; 
and though I can't say that I thought it when the bul- 
lets pattered into the snow about me, in those narrow 
streets of Quebec, yet, I suppose, it was in my mind 
then ; for, as I tell you, I was very cheerful and con- 
tented. And you, Septimius ? I never saw such a dis- 
contented, unhappy -looking fellow as you are. You have 
had a harder time in peace than I in war. You have not 
found what you seek, whatever that may be. Take my 
advice. Give yourself to the next work that comes to 
hand. The war offers place to all of us ; we ought to be 
thankful, — the most joyous of all the generations before 
or after us, — since Providence gives us such good work 
to live for, or such a good opportunity to die. It is 
worth living for, just to have the chance to die so well as 
a man may in these days. Come, be a soldier. Be a 
chaplain, since your education lies that way ; and you 
will find that nobody in peace prays so well as we do, we 
soldiers; and you shall not be debarred from fighting, 
too ; if war is holy work, a priest may lawfully do it, as 
well as pray for it. Come with us, my old friend Sep- 
timius, be my comrade, and, whether you live or die, you 
will thank me for getting you out of the yellow forlorn- 
ness in which you go on, neither living nor dying." 

Septimius looked at Robert Hagburn in surprise ; so 
much was he altered and improved by this brief expe- 
rience of war, adventure, responsibility, which he had 
passed through. Not less than the effect produced on 
his loutish, rustic air and deportment, developing his fig- 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 179 

ure, seeming to make liim taller, setting free the manly 
graces that lurked within his awkward frame, — not less 
was the effect on his mind and moral nature, giving free- 
dom of ideas, simple perception of great thoughts, a free 
natural chivalry ; so that the knight, the Homeric war- 
rior, the hero, seemed to be here, or possible to be here, 
in the young New England rustic ; and all that history 
has given, and hearts throbbed and sighed and gloried 
over, of patriotism and heroic feeling and action, might 
be repeated, perhaps, in the life and death of this familiar 
friend and playmate of his, whom he had valued not over 
highly, — Robert Hagburn. He had merely followed 
out his natural heart, boldly and singly, — doing the first 
good thing that came to hand, — and here was a hero. 

"You almost make me envy you, Robert," said he, 
sighing. 

" Then why not come with me ? " asked Robert. 

" Because I have another destiny," said Septimius. 

"Well, you are mistaken; be sure of that," said 
Robert. " This is not a generation for study, and the 
making of books ; that may come by and by. This 
great fight has need of all men to carry it on, in one way 
or another ; and no man will do well, even for himself, 
who tries to avoid his share in it. But I have said my 
say. And now, Septimius, the war takes much of a 
man, but it does not take him all, and what it leaves is 
all the more full of life and health thereby. I have 
something to say to you about this." 

" Say it then, Robert," said Septimius, who, having 
got over the first excitement of the interview, and the 
sort of exhilaration produced by the healthful glow of 



180 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

Robert's spirit, began secretly to wish that it might 
close, and to be permitted to return to his solitary 
thoughts again. " What can I do for you ? " 

"Why, nothing," said Robert, looking rather con- 
fused, " since all is settled. The fact is, my old friend, 
as perhaps you have seen, I have very long had an eye 
upon your sister Rose; yes, from the time we went 
together to the old school-house, where she now teaches 
children like what we were then. The war took me 
away, and in good time, for I doubt if Rose would ever 
have cared enough for me to be my wife, if I had stayed 
at home, a country lout, as I was getting to be, in shirt- 
sleeves and bare feet. But now, you see, I have come 
back, and this whole great war, to her woman's heart, is 
represented in me, and makes me heroic, so to speak, and 
strange, and yet her old familiar lover. So I found her 
heart tenderer for me than it was ; and, in short. Rose 
has consented to be my wife, and we mean to be married 
in a week ; my furlough permits little delay." 

" You surprise me," said Septimius, who, immersed in 
his own pursuits, had taken no notice of the growing af- 
fection between Robert and his sister. " Do you think 
it well to snatch this little lull that is allowed you in the 
wild striving of war to try to make a peaceful home ? 
Shall you like to be summoned from it soon? Shall 
you be as cheerful among dangers afterwards, when one 
sword may cut down two happinesses?" 

"There is something in what you say, and I have 
thought of it," said Robert, sighing. "But I can't tell 
how it is ; but there is something in this uncertainty, 
this peril, this cloud before us, that makes it sweeter to 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 181 

\ove and to be loved than amid all seeming quiet and 
serenity. Really, I think, if there were to be no death, 
the beauty of life would be all tame. So we take our 
chance, or our dispensation of Providence, and are going 
to love, and to be married, just as confidently as if we 
were sure of living forever." 

" Well, old fellow," said Septimius, with more cordial- 
ity and outgush of heart than he had felt for a long 
while, " there is no man whom 1 should be happier to 
call brother. Take Rose, and all happiness along with 
her! She is a good girl, and not in the least hke me. 
May you live out your threescore years and ten, and 
every one of them be happy." 

Little more passed, and Robert Hagburn took his 
leave with a hearty shake of Septimius's hand, too con- 
scious of his own happiness to be quite sensible how 
much the latter was self-involved, strange, anxious, sep- 
arated from healthy life and interests ; and Septimius, as 
soon as Robert had disappeared, locked the door behind 
hira, and proceeded at once to apply the silver key to the 
lock of the old strong box. 

The lock resisted somewhat, being rusty, as might well 
be supposed after so many years since it was opened ; 
but it finally allowed the key to turn, and Septimius, 
with a good deal of flutter at his heart, opened the lid. 
The interior had a very diff*erent aspect from that of the 
exterior; for, whereas the latter looked so old, this, hav- 
ing been kept from the air, looked about as new as when 
shut up from light and air two centuries ago, less or 
more. It was lined with ivory, beautifully carved in fig- 
ures, according to the art which the mediaeval people 



182 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

possessed in great perfection ; and probably the box bad 
been a lady's jewel-casket formerly, and had glowed with 
rich lustre and bright colors at former openings. But 
now there was nothing in it of that kind, — nothing in 
keeping with those figures carved in the ivory represent- 
ing some mythical subjects, — nothing but some papers 
in the bottom of the box written over in an ancient hand, 
which Septimius at once fancied that he recognized as that 
of the manuscript and recipe which he had found on the 
breast of the young soldier. He eagerly seized them, 
but was infinitely disappointed to find that they did not 
seem to refer at all to the subjects treated by the former, 
but related to pedigrees and genealogies, and were in refer- 
ence to an English family and some member of it who, 
two centuries before, had crossed the sea to America, 
and who, in this way, had sought to preserve his connec- 
tion with his native stock, so as to be able, perhaps, to 
prove it for himself or his descendants ; and there was 
reference to documents and records in England in con- 
firmation of the genealogy. Septimius saw that this 
paper had been drawn up by an ancestor of his own, the 
unfortunate man who had been hanged for witchcraft ; 
but so earnest had been his expectation of something 
different, that he flung the old papers down with bitter 
indifference. 

Then again he snatched them up, and contemptuously 
read them, — those proofs of descent through genera- 
tions of esquires and knights, who had been renowned 
in war; and there seemed, too, to be running through 
the family a certain tendency to letters, for three were 
designated as of the colleges of Oxford or Cambridge ; 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 183 

and against one there was the note, " he that sold him- 
self to Sathan " ; and another seemed to have been a fol- 
lower of Wickliffe; and they had murdered kings, and 
been beheaded, and banished, and what not ; so that the 
age-long life of this ancient family had not been after all 
a happy or very prosperous one, though they had kept 
their estate, in one or another descendant, since the Con- 
quest, It was not wholly without interest that Septim- 
ius saw that this ancient descent, this connection with 
noble families, and intermarriages with names, some of 
which he recognized as known in English history, all 
referred to his own family, and seemed to centre in him- 
self, the last of a poverty-stricken line, which had dwin- 
dled down into obscurity, and into rustic labor and hum- 
ble toil, reviving in him a little ; yet how little, unless he 
fulfilled his strange purpose. Was it not better worth 
his while to take this English position here so strangely 
offered him ? He had apparently slain unwittingly the 
only person who could have contested his rights, — the 
young man who had so strangely brought him the hope 
of unlimited life at the same time that he was making 
room for him among his forefatliers. What a change in 
his lot would have been here, for there seemed to be 
some pretensions to a title, too, from a barony which was 
floating about and occasionally moving out of abeyancy ! 
" Perliaps," said Septimius to himself, " I may here- 
after think it worth while to assert my claim to these pos- 
sessions, to this position amid an ancient aristocracy, and 
try that mode of life for one generation. Yet there is 
something in my destiny incompatible, of course, with 
the continued possession of an estate. I must be, of 



184 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

necessity, a wanderer on the face of tie earth, changhig 
place at short intervals, disappearing suddenly and en- 
tirely ; else the foolish, short-lived multitude and mob of 
mortals will be enraged with one who seems their brother, 
yet whose countenance will never be furrowed with his 
age, nor his knees totter, nor his force be abated ; their 
little brevity will be rebuked by his age-long endurance, 
above whom the oaken roof-tree of a thousand years 
would crumble, while still he would be hale and strong. 
So that this house, or any other, would be but a resting- 
place of a day, and then I must away into another ob- 
scurity." 

With almost a regret, he continued to look over the 
documents until he reached one of the persons recorded 
in the line of pedigree, — a worthy, apparently, of the 
reign of Elizabeth, to whom was attributed a title of 
Doctor in Utriusque Juris ; and against his name was a 
verse of Latin written, for what purpose Septimius knew 
not, for on reading it, it appeared to have no discov- 
erable appropriateness ; but suddenly he remembered 
the blotted and imperfect hieroglyphical passage in the 
recipe. He thought an instant, and was convinced this 
was the full expression and outwTiting of that crabbed 
little mystery; and that here was part of that secret 
writing for which the Age of Elizabeth was so famous 
and so dexterous. His mind had a flash of light upon it, 
and from that moment he was enabled to read not only 
the recipe but the rules, and all the rest of that mys- 
terious document, in a way which he had never thouglit 
of before ; to discern that it was not to be taken literally 
and simply, but had a hidden process involved in it that 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 185 

made tlie whole thing infinitely deeper than he had hith- 
erto deemed it to be. His brain reeled, he seemed to 
have taken a draught of some liquor that opened infinite 
depths before him, he could scarcely refrain from giving 
a shout of triumphant exultation, the house could not 
contain him, he rushed up to his hill-top, and there, after 
walking swiftly to and fro, at length flung himself on the 
little hillock, and burst forth, as if addressing him who 
slept beneath. 

" brother, friend ! " said he, " I thank thee for thy 
matchless beneficence to me ; for all which I rewarded 
thee with this little spot on my hill-top. Thou wast 
very good, very kind. It would not have been well for 
thee, a youth of fiery joys and passions, loving to laugh, 
loving the lightness and sparkling brilliancy of life, to 
take this boon to thyself; for, brother! I see, I see, 
it requires a strong spirit, capable of much lonely en- 
durance, able to be sufficient to itself, loving not too 
much, dependent on no sweet ties of affection, to be ca- 
pable of the mighty trial which now devolves on me. I 
thank thee, kinsman ! Yet thou, I feel, hast the bet- 
ter part, who didst so soon lie down to rest, who hast 
done forever with this troublesome world, which it is 
mine to contemplate from age to age, and to sum up the 
meaning of it. Thou art disporting thyself in other 
spheres. I enjoy the high, severe, fearful ofiice of living 
here, and of being the minister of Providence from one 
age to many successive ones." 

In this manner he raved, as never before, in a strani 
of exalted enthusiasm, securely treading on air, and some- 
times stopping to shout aloud, and feeling as if he should 



186 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

hurst if he did not do so ; and his voice came back to 
him again from the low hills on the other side of the 
broad, level valley, and out of the woods afar, mocking 
him ; or as if it were airy spirits, that knew how it was 
all to be, confirming his cry, saying "It shall be so," 
"Thou hast found it at last," "Thou art immortal." 
And it seemed as if Nature were inclined to celebrate his 
triumph over herself; for above the woods that crowned 
the hill to the northward, there were shoots and streams 
of radiance, a white, a red, a many-colored lustre, blazing 
np high towards the zenith, dancing up, flitting down, 
dancing up again ; so that it seemed as if spirits were 
keeping a revel there. The leaves of the trees on the 
hillside, all except the evergreens, had now mostly fallen 
with the autumn ; so that Septimius was seen by the few 
passers-by, in the decline of the afternoon, passing to 
and fro along his path, wildly gesticulating ; and heard 
to shout so that the echoes came from all directions to 
answer him. After nightfall, too, in the harvest moon- 
light, a shadow was still seen passing there, waving its 
arms in shadowy triumph ; so, the next day, there were 
various goodly stories afloat and astir, coming out of 
successive mouths, more wondrous at each birth ; the 
simplest form of the story being, that Septimius Felton 
had at last gone raving mad on the hill-top that he was 
so fond of haunting ; and those who listened to his 
shrieks said that he was calling to the Devil ; and some 
said that by certain exorcisms he had caused the appear- 
ance of a battle in tlie air, charging squadrons, cannon- 
flashes, champions encountering ; all of which foreboded 
some real battle to be fought with the enemies of the 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 187 

country; and as tlie battle of Monmouth chanced to 
occur, either the very next day, or about that time, this 
was supposed to be either caused or foretold by Sep- 
timius's eccentricities ; and as the battle was not very 
favorable to our arms, the patriotism of Septimius suf- 
fered much in popular estimation. 

But he knew nothhig, thought nothing, cared nothing 
about his country, or his country's battles ; he was as 
sane as he had been for a year past, and was wise 
enough, though merely by instinct, to throw off some of 
his superfluous excitement by these wild gestures, with 
wild shouts, and restless activity; and when he had 
partly accomplished this he returned to the house, and, 
late as it was, kindled his fire, and began anew the pro- 
cesses of chemistry, now enlightened by the late teach- 
ings. A new agent seemed to him to mix itself up with 
his toil and to forward his purpose ; something helped 
him along; everything became facile to his manipulation, 
clear to his thought. In this way he spent the night, 
and when at sunrise he let in the eastern light upon his 
study, the thing was done. 

Septimius had achieved it. That is to say, he had 
succeeded in amalgamating his materials so that they 
acted upon one another, and in accordance ; and had 
produced a result that had a subsistence in itself, and 
a right to be ; a something potent and substantial ; each 
ingredient contributing its part to form a new essence, 
which was as real and individual as anything it was 
formed from. But in order to perfect it, there was 
necessity that the powers of nature should act quietly 
upon it through a month of sunshine ; that the moon, 



188 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

too, should have its part in the production ; and so he 
must wait patiently for this. Wait ! surely he would ! 
Had he not time for waiting ? Were he to wait till old 
age, it would not be too much ; for all future time would 
have it in charge to repay him. 

So he poured the inestimable liquor into a glass vase, 
well secured from the air, and placed it in the sunshine, 
shifting it from one sunny window to another, in order 
that it might ripen ; moving it gently lest he should dis- 
turb the living spirit that he knew to be in it. And he 
watched it from day to day, watched the reflections in it, 
watched its lustre, which seemed to him to grow greater 
day by day, as if it imbibed the sunlight into it. Never 
was there anything so bright as this. It changed its hue, 
too, gradually, being now a rich purple, now a crimson, 
now a violet, now a blue ; going through all these pris- 
matic colors without losing any of its brilliance, and 
never was there such a hue as the sunlight took in falling 
through it and resting on his floor. And strange and 
beautiful it was, too, to look through this medium at the 
outer world, and see how it was glorified and made anew, 
and did not look like the same world, although there 
were all its familiar marks. And then, past his window, 
seen through this, went the farmer and his wife, on sad- 
dle and pillion, jogging to meeting-house or market ; and 
the very dog, the cow coming home from pasture, the old 
familiar faces of his childhood, looked differently. And 
so at last, at the end of the month, it settled into a most 
deep and brilliant crimson, as if it were the essence of 
the blood of the young man whom he had slain ; the 
flower being now triumphant, it had given its own hue to 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 189 

tlie whole mass, and had grown brighter every day ; so 
that it seemed to have inherent light, as if it were a 
planet by itself, a heart of crimson fire burning within it. 
And when this had been done, and there was no more 
change, showing that the digestion was perfect, then he 
took it and placed it where the changing moon would fall 
upon it ; and then again he watched it, covering it in 
darkness by day, revealing it to the moon by night ; and 
watching it here, too, through more changes. And by 
and by he perceived that the deep crimson hue was de- 
parting, — not fadings we cannot say that, because of the 
prodigious lustre which still pervaded it, and was not less 
strong than ever ; but certainly the hue became fainter, 
now a rose-color, now fainter, fainter still, till there was 
only left the purest whiteness of the moon itself; a 
change that somewhat disappointed and grieved Septim- 
ius, though still it seemed fit that the water of life should 
be of no one richness, because it must combine all. As 
the absorbed young man gazed through the lonely nights 
at his beloved liquor, he fancied sometimes that he could 
see wonderful things in the crystal sphere of the vase ; as 
in Doctor Dee's magic crystal used to be seen, which 
now lies in the British Museum ; representations, it 
might be, of things in the far past, or in the further 
future, scenes in which he himself was to act, persons 
yet unborn, the beautiful and the wise, with whom he 
was to be associated, palaces and towers, modes of hith- 
erto unseen architecture, that old hall in England to 
which he had a hereditary right, with its gables, and its 
smooth lawn ; the witch-meetings in which his ancestor 
used to take part ; Aunt Keziah on her death-bed ; and. 



190 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

flitting through all, the shade of Sybil Dacy, eying him 
from secret nooks, or some remoteness, with her peculiar 
mischievous smile, beckoning hhn into the sphere. All 
such visions would he see, and then become aware that 
he had been in a dream, superinduced by too much 
watching, too intent thought; so that living among so 
many dreams, he was almost afraid that he should find 
himself waking out of yet another, and find that the vase 
itself and the liquid it contained were also dream-stufi". 
But no ; these were real. 

There was one change that surprised him, although he 
accepted it without doubt, and, indeed, it did imply a 
wonderful efficacy, at least singularity, in the uewly 
converted liquid. It grew strangely cool in temperature 
in the latter part of his watching it. It appeared to 
imbibe its coldness from the cold, chaste moon, until it 
seemed to Septimius that it was colder than ice itself ; 
the mist gathered upon the crystal vase as upon a tum- 
bler of iced water in a warm room. Some say it actu- 
ally gathered thick with frost, crystallized into a thousand 
fantastic and beautiful shapes, but this I do not know so 
well. Only it was very cold. Septimius pondered upon 
it, and thought he saw that life itself was cold, indi- 
vidual in its being, a high, pure essence, chastened from 
all heats ; cold, therefore, and therefore invigorating. 

Thus much, inquiring deeply, and with ptiinful re- 
search into the liquid which Septimius concocted, have 
I been able to learn about it, — its aspect, its prop- 
erties ; and now I suppose it to be quite perfect, and 
that nothing remains but to put it to such use as he 
had so long been laboring for. But this, somehow or 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 191 

other, lie found in himself a strong reluctance to do ; 
he paused, as it were, at the point where his pathway 
separated itself from that of other men, and meditated 
whether it were worth while to give up everything that 
Providence had provided, and take instead only this 
lonely gift of immortal life. Not that he ever really had 
any doubt about it ; no, indeed ; but it was his security, 
his consciousness that he held the bright sphere of all 
futurity in his hand, that made him dally a little, now 
that he could quaff immortaHty as soon as he liked. 

Besides, now that he looked forward from the verge 
of mortal destiny, the path before him seemed so very 
lonely. Might he not seek some one own friend — one 
single heart — before he took the final step ? There was 
Sybil Dacy ! 0, what bliss, if that pale girl might set 
out with him on his journey ! how sweet, how sweet, to 
wander with her through the places else so desolate ! for 
he could but half see, half know things, without her to 
help him. And perhaps it might be so. She must 
already know, or strongly suspect, that he was engaged 
in some deep, mysterious research; it might be that, 
with her sources of mysterious know]3dge among her 
legendary lore, she knew of this. Then, 0, to think of 
those dreams which lovers have always had, when their 
new love makes the old earth seem so happy and glo- 
rious a place, that not a thousand nor a» endless succes- 
sion of years can exhaust it, — all those realized for him 
and her ! If this could not be, what should he do ? 
Would he venture onward into such a wintry futurity, 
symbolized, perhaps, by the coldness ol tnb crystal gob- 
let ? He shivered at the thought. 



192 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

Now, what had passed between Septiinms and Sybil 
Dacy is not upon record, only that one day they were 
walking together on the hill-top, or sitting by the little 
hillock, and talking earnestly together. Sybil's face was 
a little flushed with some excitement, and really she 
looked very beautiful; and Septimius's dark face, too, 
had a solemn triumph in it that made him also beautiful ; 
so rapt he was after all those watchings, and emaciations, 
and the pure, unworldly, self-denying life that he had 
spent. They talked as if there were some foregone con- 
clusion on which they based what they said. 

"Will you not be weary in the time that we shall 
spend together ? " asked he. 

" no," said Sybil, smiling, " I am sure that it will 
be very full of enjoyment." 

"Yes," said Septimius, "though now I must remould 
my anticipations ; for I have only dared, hitherto, to map 
out a solitary existence." 

" And how did you do that ? " asked Sybil. 

" 0, there is nothing that would come amiss," an- 
swered Septimius ; " for, truly, as I have lived apart 
from men, yet it is really not because I have no taste for 
whatever humanity includes : but I would fain, if I might, 
live everybody's life at once, or, since that may not be, 
each in succession. I would try the life of power, ruling 
men ; but that might come later, after I had had long expe- 
rience of men, and had lived through much history, and 
had seen, as a disinterested observer, how men might 
best be influenced for their own good. I would be a 
great traveller at first ; and as a man newly coming into 
possession of an estate, goes over it, and views each sep- 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 193 

arate field and wood-lot, and whatever features it con- 
tains, so will I, whose the world is, because I possess it 
forever ; whereas all others are but transitory guests. So 
will I wander over this world of mine, and be acquainted 
with all its shores, seas, rivers, mountains, fields, and the 
various peoples who inhabit them, and to whom it is my 
purpose to be a benefactor; for think not, dear Sybil, 
that I suppose this great lot of mine to have devolved 
upon me without great duties, — heavy and difficult to 
fulfil, though glorious in their adequate fulfilment. But 
for all this there will be time. In a century I shall par- 
tially have seen this earth, and known at least its boun- 
daries, — have gotten for myself the outline, to be filled 
up hereafter." 

" And I, too," said Sybil, " will have my duties and 
labors ; for while you are wandering about among men, 
I will go among women, and observe and converse with 
them, from the princess to the peasant-girl ; and will find 
out what is the matter, that woman gets so large a share 
of human misery laid on her weak shoulders. I will see 
why it is that, whether she be a royal princess, she has 
to be sacrificed to matters of state, or a cottage-girl, still 
someiiow the thing not fit for her is done ; and whether 
there is or no some deadly curse on woman, so that she 
has nothing to do, and nothing to enjoy, but only to be 
wronged by man, and still to love him, and despise her- 
self for it, — to be shaky in her revenges. And then if, 
after all this investigation, it turns out — as I suspect — 
that woman is not capable of being helped, that there is 
something inherent in herself that makes it hopeless to 
struggle for her redemption, then what shall I do ? Nay, 



194 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

I know not, unless to preach to the sisterhood that they 
all kill their female children as fast as they are born, and 
then let the generations of men manage as they can! 
Woman, so feeble and crazy in body, fair enough some- 
times, but full of infirmities ; not strong, with nerves 
prone to every pain; ailing, full of little weaknesses, 
more contemptible than great ones ! " 

" That would be a dreary end, Sybil," said Septimius. 
" But I trust that we shall be able to hush up this weary 
and perpetual wail of womankind on easier terms than 
that. Well, dearest Sybil, after we have spent a hun- 
dred years in examining into the real state of mankind, 
and another century in devising and putting in execution 
remedies for his ills, until our maturer thought has time 
to perfect his cure, we shall then have earned a little 
playtime, — a century of pastime, in which we will search 
out whatever joy can be had by thoughtful people, and 
that childlike sportiveness which comes out of growing 
wisdom, and enjoyment of every kind. We will gather 
about us everything beautiful and stately, a great palace, 
for we shall then be so experienced that all riches will 
be easy for us to get ; with rich furniture, pictures, stat- 
ues, and all royal ornaments ; and side by side with this 
life we will have a little cottage, and see which is the 
happiest, for this has always been a dispute. For this 
century we will neither toil nor spin, nor think of any- 
thing beyond the day that is passing over us. There is 
time enough to do all that we have to do." 

" A hundred years of play ! Will not that be tire- 
some ? " said Sybil. 

"If it is," said Septimius, "the next century shall 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 195 

make up for it ; for then we "vrill contrive" deep pliiloso- 
phies, take up one theory after another, and find out its 
hollowness and inadequacy, and fling it aside, the rotten 
rubbish that they all are, until we have strewn the whole 
realm of human thought with the broken fragments, all 
smashed up. And then, on this great mound of broken 
potsherds (like that great Monte Testaccio, which we 
will go to Rome to see), we will build a system that shall 
stand, and by which mankind shall look far into the ways 
of Providence, and find practical uses of the deepest kind 
in what it has thought merely speculation. And then, 
when the hundred years are over, and this great work 
done, we will still be so free in mind, that we shall see 
the emptiness of our own theory, though men see only its 
truth. And so, if we like more of this pastime, then 
shall another and another century, and as many more as 
we like, be spent in the same way." 

" And after that another play-day ? " asked Sybil 
Dacy. 

" Yes," said Septimius, " only it shall not be called so ; 
for the next century we will get ourselves made rulers of 
the earth; and knowing men so well, and having so 
wrought our theories of government and what not, we 
will proceed to execute them, — which will be as easy to 
us as a child's arrangement of its dolls. We will smile 
superior, to see what a facile thing it is to make a people 
happy. In our reign of a hundred years, we shall have 
time to extinguish errors, and make the world see the ab- 
surdity of them ; to substitute other methods of govern- 
ment for the old, bad ones ; to fit the people to govern 
itself, to do with little government, to do with none ; and 



196 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

when this is effected, we will vanish from our loving peo- 
ple, and be seen no more, but be reverenced as gods, — 
we, meanwhile, being overlooked, and smiling to our- 
selves, amid the very crowd that is looking for us." 

" I intend," said Sybil, making this wild talk wilder by 
that petulance which she so often showed, — "I intend 
to introduce a new fashion of dress when I am queen, 
and that shall be my part of the great reform which you 
are going to make. And for my crown, I intend to have 
it of flowers, in which that strange crimson one shall be 
the chief; and when I vanish, this flower shall remain 
behind, and perhaps they shall have a glimpse of me 
wearing it in the crowd. Well, what next?" 

"After this," said Septimius, "having seen so much 
of affairs, and having lived so many hundred years, I will 
sit down and write a history, such as histories ought to 
be, and never have been. And it shall be so wise, and so 
vivid, and so self-evidently true, that people shall be con- 
vinced from it that there is some undying one among 
them, because only an eye-witness could have written it, 
or could have gained so much wisdom as was needful for 
it." 

" And for my part in the history," said Sybil, " I will 
record the various lengths of women's waists, and the 
fashion of their sleeves. What next ? " 

"By this time," said Septimius, — "how many hun- 
dred years have we now lived ? — by this time, I shall 
have pretty well prepared myself for what I have been 
contemplating from the first. I will become a religious 
teacher, and promulgate a faith, and prove it by prophe- 
cies and miracles ; for my long experience will enable me 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 197 

to do the first, and the acquaintance which I shall have 
formed with the mysteries of science will put the latter at 
my fingers' ends. So I will be a prophet, a greater than 
Mahomet, and will put all man's hopes into my doctrine, 
and make him good, holy, happy ; and he shall put up 
his prayers to his Creator, and find them answered, be- 
cause they shall be wise, and accompanied with effort. 
This will be a great work, and may earn me another rest 
and pastime." 

[^He would see, in one age, the column raised in memory 
of some great deed of his in a former one.'] 

"And what shall that be ? " asked Sybil Dacy. 

" Why," said Septimius, looking askance at her, and 
speaking with a certain hesitation, " I have learned, Sybil, 
that it is a weary toil for a man to be always good, holy, 
and upright. In my life as a sainted prophet, I shall 
have somewhat too much of this ; it will be enervating 
and sickening, and T shall need another kind of diet. So, 
in the next hundred years, Sybil, — in that one little 
century, — methinks I would fain be what men call 
wicked. How can I know my brethren, unless I do that 
once ? I would experience all. Imagination is only a 
dream. 1 can imagine myself a murderer, and all other 
modes of crime ; but it leaves no real impression on the 
heart, I must live these things." 

\_The rampant unrestraint, which is the characteristic of 
wickedness?^ 

" Good," said Sybil, quietly ; " and I too." 

"And thou too!" exclaimed Septimius. "Not so, 
Sybil. I would reserve thee, good and pure, so that 
there may be to me the means of redemption, — some 



198 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

stable hold in the moral confusion that I will create 
around myself, whereby I shall by and by get back into 
order, virtue, and religion. Else all is lost, and I may 
become a devil, and make my own hell around me ; so, 
Sybil, do thou be good forever, and not fall nor slip a 
moment. Promise me ! " 

" We will consider about that in some other century," 
replied Sybil, composedly. " There is time enough yet. 
What next ? " 

" Nay, this is enough for the present," said Septimius. 
" New vistas will open themselves before us continually, 
as we go onward. How idle to think that one little life- 
time would exhaust the world ! After hundreds of cen- 
turies, I feel as if we might still be on the threshold. 
There is the material world, for instance, to perfect ; to 
draw out the powers of nature, so that man shall, as it 
were, give life to all modes of matter, and make them his 
ministering servants. Swift ways of travel, by earth, sea, 
and air ; machines for doing whatever the hand of man 
now does, so that we shall do all but put souls into our 
wheel-work and watch-work ; the modes of making night 
into day : of getting control over the weather and the 
seasons ; the virtues of plants ; — these are some of the 
easier things thou shalt help me do." 

"I have no taste for that," said Sybil, "unless I 
could make an embroidery worked of steel." 

"And so, Sybil," continued Septimius, pursuing his 
strain of solemn enthusiasm, intermingled as it was with 
wild, excursive vagaries, " we will go on as many centu- 
ries as we choose. Perhaps, — yet I think not so, — per- 
iaps, however, in the course of lengthened time, we may 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 199 

find that the world is the same always, and mankind the 
same, and all possibilities of human fortune the same ; so 
that by and by we shall discover that the same old scen- 
ery serves the world's stage in all ages, and that the story 
is always the same ; yes, and the actors always the same, 
though none but we can be aware of it ; and that the 
actors and spectators would grow weary of it, were they 
not bathed in forgetful sleep, and so think themselves 
new made in each successive Hfetime, We may find that 
the stuff of the world's drama, and the passions which 
seem to play in it, have a monotony, when once we have 
tried them ; that in only once trying them, and viewing 
them, we find out their secret, and that afterwards the 
show is too superficial to arrest our attention. As dram- 
atists and novelists repeat their plots, so does man's 
life repeat itself, and at length grows stale. This is 
what, in my desponding moments, I have sometimes 
suspected. What to do, if this be so ? " 

" Nay, that is a serious consideration," replied Sybil, 
assuming an air of mock alarm, " if you really think we 
shall be tired of life, whether or no." 

"I do not think it, Sybil," replied Septimius. "By 
much musing on this matter, I have convinced myself 
that man is not capable of debarring himself utterly 
from death, since it is evidently a remedy for many evils 
that nothing else would cure. This means that we have 
discovered of removing death to an indefinite distance is 
ik)t supernatural ; on the contrary, it is the most natural 
thing in the world, — the very perfection of the natural, 
since it consists in applying the powers and processes of 
Nature to the prolongation of the existence of man, her 



200 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

most perfect handiwork ; and this could only be done by 
entire accordance and co-effort with nature. Therefore 
Nature is not changed, and death remains as one of her 
steps, just as heretofore. Therefore, when we have ex- 
hausted the world, whether by going through its appar- 
ently vast variety, or by satisfying ourselves that it is all 
a repetition of one thing, we will call death as the friend 
to introduce us to something new," 

[He would write a poem, or other great work, inappre- 
ciable at first, and live to see it famous, — himself among 
his own posterity?^ 

" O, insatiable love of life ! " exclaimed Sybil, looking 
at him with strange pity. " Canst thou not conceive 
that mortal brain and heart might at length be content 
to sleep ? " 

"Never, Sybil! " replied Septimius, with horror. "My 
spirit delights in the thought of an infinite eternity. 
Does not thine ? " 

"One little interval — a few centuries only — of 
dreamless sleep," said Sybil, pleadingly. " Cannot you 
allow me that ? " 

" I fear," said Septimius, " our identity would change 
in that repose ; it would be a Lethe between the two 
parts of our being, and with such disconnection a con- 
tinued Hfe would be equivalent to a new one, and there- 
fore valueless." 

In such talk, snatching in the fog at the fragments of 
philosophy, they continued fitfully ; Septimius calming 
down his enthusiasm thus, which otherwise might have 
burst forth in madness, aff'righting the quiet little village 
with the marvellous things about which they mused. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 201 

Sepiimius could not quite satisfy himself wLetlier Sybil 
Dacy shared iu his belief of the success of his experi- 
ment, and was confident, as he was, that he held iu his 
control the means of unlimited life ; neither was he sure 
that she loved him, — loved him well enough to under- 
take with him the long march that he propounded to 
her, making a union an affair of so vastly more impor- 
tance than it is in the brief lifetime of other mortals. 
But he determined to let her drink the invaluable draught 
along with him, and to trust to the long future, and the 
better opportunities that time would give him, and his 
outlivmg all rivals, and the loneliness which an undying 
life would throw around her, without him, as the pledges 
of his success. 

And now the happy day had come for the celebration 
of Robert Hagburn's marriage with pretty Rose Gar- 
field, the brave with the fair ; and, as usual, the cere- 
mony was to take place in the evening, and at the house 
of the bride : and preparations were made accordingly ; 
the wedding-cake, which the bride's own fair hands had 
mingled with her tender hopes, and seasoned it with 
maiden fears, so that its composition was as much ethe- 
real as sensual; and the neighbors and friends were 
invited, and came with their best wishes and good-will. 
Tor Rose shared not at all the distrust, the suspicion, 
or whatever it was, that had waited on the true branch 
of Septimius's family, iu one shape or another, ever 
since the memory of man; and all — except, it might 
be, some disappointed damsels whc had hoped to win 
Robert Hagburn for themselves — rejoiced at the ap- 
.9* 



202 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

proacliing union of this fit couple, and wished them 
happiness. 

Septimius, too, accorded his gracious consent to the 
union, and while he thought within himself that such a 
brief union was not worth the trouble and feeling which 
his sister and her lover wasted on it, still he wished them 
happiness. As he compared their brevity with his long 
duration, he smiled at their little fancies of loves, of 
which he seemed to see the end ; the flower of a brief 
summer, blooming beautifully enough, and shedding its 
leaves, the fragrance of which would linger a little while 
in his memory, and then be gone. He wondered how 
far in the coming centuries he should remember this 
wedding of his sister Rose ; perhaps he would meet, five 
hundred years hence, some descendant of the marriage, 
— a fair girl, bearing the traits of his sister's fresh 
beauty ; a young man, recalling the strength and manly 
comeliness of Robert Hagburn, — and could claim ac- 
quaintance and kindred. He would be the guardian, 
from generation to generation, of this race ; their ever- 
reappearing friend at times of need ; and meeting them 
from age to age, would find traditions of himself grow- 
ing poetical in the lapse of time ; so that he would smile 
at seeing his features look so much more majestic in 
their fancies than in reality. So all along their course, 
in the history of the family, he would trace himself, and 
by his traditions he would make them acquainted with 
all their ancestors, and so still be warmed by kindred 
blood. 

And Robert Hagburn, full of the life of the moment, 
warm with generous blood, came in a new uniform, 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 203 

looking fit to be the founder of a race who should look 
back to a hero sire. He greeted Septimius as a brother. 
The minister, too, came, of course, and mingled with 
the throng, with decorous aspect, and greeted Septimius 
with more formality than he had been wont ; for Sep- 
timius had insensibly withdrawn himself from the min- 
ister's intimacy, as he got deeper and deeper into the 
enthusiasm of his own cause. Besides, the minister did 
not fail to see that his once devoted scholar had con- 
tracted habits of study into the secrets of which he 
himself was not admitted, and that he no longer alluded 
to studies for the ministry ; and he was inclined to sus- 
pect that Septimius had unfortunately allowed infidel 
ideas to assail, at least, if not to overcome, that fortress of 
firm faith, which he had striven to found and strengthen 
in his mind, — a misfortune frequently befalling specula- 
tive and imaginative and melancholic persons, like Sep- 
timius, whom the Devil is all the time planning to 
assault, because he feels confident of having a traitor in 
the garrison. The minister had heard that this was the 
fashion of Septimius's family, and that even the famous 
divine, who, in his eyes, was the glory of it, had had 
his season of wild infidelity in his youth, before grace 
touched him ; and had always thereafter, throughout his 
long and pious life, been subject to seasons of black and 
sulphurous despondency, during which he disbelieved the 
faith which, at other times, he preached so powerfully. 

" Septimius, my young friend," said he, " are you yet 
ready to be a preacher of the truth ? " 

"Not yet, reverend pastor," said Septimius, smiling 
at the thought of the day before, that the career of a 



204 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

prophet would be one that he should some time assume, 
" There will be time enough to preach the truth when I 
better know it." 

" You do not look as if you knew it so well as for- 
merly, instead of better," said his reverend friend, look- 
ing into the deep furrows of his brow, and into his wild 
and troubled eyes. 

" Perhaps not," said Septimius. " There is time yet." 
These few words passed amid the bustle and murmur 
of the evening, while the guests were assembling, and all 
were awaiting the marriage with that interest which the 
event continually brings with it, common as it is, so that 
nothing but death is commoner. Everybody congratu- 
lated the modest Rose, who looked quiet and happy ; and 
so she stood up at the proper time, and the minister mar- 
ried them with a certain fervor and individual applica- 
tion, that made them feel they were married indeed. 
Then there ensued a salutation of the bride, the first to 
kiss her being the minister, and then some respectable 
old justices and farmers, each with his friendly smile and 
joke. Then went round the cake and wine, and other 
good cheer, and the hereditary jokes with which brides 
used to be assailed in those days. I think, too, there 
was a dance, though how the couples in the reel found 
space to foot it in the little room, I cannot imagine ; at 
any rate, there was a bright light out of the windows, 
gleaming across the road, and such a sound of the babble 
of numerous voices and merriment, that travellers pass- 
ing by, on the lonely Lexington road, wished th'ey were 
of the party ; and one or two of them stopped and went 
in, and saw the new-made bride, drank to her health, 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 205 

and took a piece of the wedding-cake home to dream 
upon. 

[It is to be observed that Rose had requested of her 
friend, Sybil Bacy, to act as one of her bridesmaids, of 
whom she had only the modest number of two ; 'and the 
strange girl declined, saying that her ititermeddling would 
bring ill fortune to the marriage.^ 

" Why do you talk such nonsense, Sybil ? " asked 
Rose. " You love me, I am sure, and wish me well ; 
and your smile, such as it is, will be the promise of pros- 
perity, and I wish for it on my wedding-day." 

"I am an ill-fate, a sinister demon, Rose ; a thing 
that has sprung out of a grave ; and you had better not 
entreat me to twine my poison tendrils round your des- 
tinies. You would repent it." 

" 0, hush, hush ! " said Rose, putting her hand over 
her friend's mouth. " Naughty one ! you can bless me, 
if you will, only you are wayward." 

" Bless you, then, dearest Rose, and all happiness on 
your marriage ! " 

Septimius had been duly present at the marriage, and 
kissed his sister with moist eyes, it is said, and a solemn 
smile, as he gave her into the keeping of Robert Hag- 
burn ; and there was something in the words he then 
used that afterwards dwelt on her mind, as if they had 
a meaning in them that asked to be sought into, and 
needed reply. 

" There, Rose," he had said, " I have made myself ready 
for ray destiny. I have no ties any more, and may set 
forth on my path without scruple." 

" Am I not your sister still, Septimius ? " said she, 
shedding a tear or two. 



206 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

" A married woman is no sister ; nothing but a mar- 
ried woman till she becomes a mother ; and then what 
shall I have to do with you ? " 

He spoke with a certain eagerness to prove his case, 
which Rose could not understand, but which was prob- 
ably to justify himself in severing, as he was about to do, 
the link that connected him with his race, and making 
for himself an exceptional destiny, which, if it did not 
entirely insulate him, would at least create new relations 
with all. There he stood, poor fellow, looking on the 
mirthful throng, not in exultation, as might have been 
supposed, but with a strange sadness upon him. It 
seemed to him, at that final moment, as if it were Death 
that linked together all ; yes, and so gave the warmth to 
all. Wedlock itself seemed a brother of Death; wed- 
lock, and its sweetest hopes, its holy companionship, its 
mysteries, and all that warm mysterious brotherhood that 
is between men; passing as they do from mystery to 
mystery in a little gleam of light ; that wild, sweet charm 
of uncertainty and temporariness, — how lovely it made 
them all, how innocent, even the worst of them ; how 
hard and prosaic was his own situation in comparison 
to theirs. He felt a gushing tenderness for them, as 
if he would have flung aside his endless life, and rushed 
among them, saying, — 

" Embrace me ! I am still one of you, and will not 
leave you ! Hold me fast ! " 

After this it was not particularly observed that both 
Septimius and Sybil Dacy had disappeared from the 
party, which, however, went on no less merrily without 
tliem. In truth, the habits of Sybil Dacy were so way- 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 207 

ward, and little squared by general rules, tliat nobody 
wondered or tried to account for them ; and as for Sep- 
timius, he was such a studious man, so little accustomed 
to mingle with his fellow-citizens on any occasion, that 
it was rather wondered at that he should have spent so 
large a part of a sociable evening with them, than that 
he should now retire. 

After they were gone the party received an unexpected 
addition, being no other than the excellent Doctor Port- 
soaken, who came to the door, announcing that he had 
just arrived on horseback from Boston, and that, his object 
being to have an interview with Sybil Dacy, he had been 
to Robert Hagburn's house in quest of her ; but, learn- 
ing from the old grandmother that she was here, he had 
followed. 

Not finding her, he evinced no alarm, but was easily 
induced to sit down among the merry company, and par- 
take of some brandy, which, with other liquors, Robert 
had provided in sufficient abundance ; and that being 
a day when man had not learned to fear the glass, the 
doctor found them all in a state of hilarious chat. Tak- 
ing out his German pipe, he joined the group of smokers 
in the great chimney-corner, and entered into conversa- 
tion with them, laughing and joking, and mixing up 
his jests with that mysterious suspicion which gave so 
strange a character to his intercourse. 

" It is good fortune, Mr. Hagburn," quoth he, " that 
brings me here on this auspicious day. And how has 
been my learned young friend Dr. Septimius, — for so he 
should be called, — and how have flourished his studies 
of late ? The scientific world may look for great fruits 
from that decoction of his." 



208 SEPTIMIUS FELTOX. 

"He'll never equal Aunt Keziah for herb-drinks," 
said an old woman, smoking her pipe in the corner, 
" though I think likely he '11 make a good doctor enough 
by and by. Poor Kezzy, she took a drop too much of 
her mixture, after all. I used to tell her how it would 
be ; for Kezzy and I ever were pretty good friends once, 
before the Indian in her came out so strongly, — the 
squaw and the witch, for she had them both in her blood, 
poor yellow Kezzy ! " 

" Yes ! had she indeed ? " quoth the doctor ; " and 
I have heard an odd story, that if the Feltons chose to 
go back to the old country, they 'd find a home and an 
estate there ready for them." 

The old woman mused, and puffed at her pipe. " Ah, 
yes," muttered she, at length, " I remember to have heard 
something about that; and how, if Felton chose to 
strike into the woods, he 'd find a tribe of wild Indians 
there ready to take him for their sagamore, and conquer 
the whites ; and how, if he chose to go to England, there 
was a great old house all ready for him, and a fire burn- 
ing in the hall, and a dinner-table spread, and the tall- 
posted bed ready, with clean sheets, in the best chamber, 
and a man waiting at the gate to show him in. Only 
there was a spell of a bloody footstep left on the thresh- 
old by the last that came out, so that none of his poster- 
ity could ever cross it again. But that was all non- 
sense ! " 

" Strange old things one dreams in a chimney-corner," 
quoth the doctor. " Do you remember any more of 
this ? " 

" No, no ; I 'm so forgetful nowadays," said old Mr& 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 209 

Hagburn ; " only it seems as if I had my memories in my 
pipe, and they curl up in smoke. I 've known these Fel- 
tons all along, or it seems as if I had ; for I 'm nigh 
ninety years old now, and I was two year old in tlie 
witch's time, and I have seen a piece of the halter that 
old Felton was hung with." 

Some of the company laughed. 

"That must have been a curious sight," quoth the 
doctor, 

" It is not well," said the minister seriously to the doc- 
tor, " to stir up these old remembrances, making the poor 
old lady appear absurd. I know not that she need to be 
ashamed of showing the weaknesses of the generation to 
which she belonged ; but I do not like to see old age put 
at this disadvantage among the young." 

" Nay, my good and reverend sir," returned the doc- 
tor, " I mean no such disrespect as you seem to think. 
Forbid it, ye upper powers, that I should cast any ridi- 
cule on beliefs, — superstitions, do you call them ? — 
that are as worthy of faith, for aught I know, as any that 
are preached in the pulpit. If the old lady would tell 
me any secret of the old Felton's science, I shall treasure 
it sacredly ; for I interpret these stories about his mirac- 
ulous gifts as meaning that he had a great command 
over natural science, the virtues oi plants, the capacities 
of the human body." 

-While these things were passing, or before they passed, 
or some time in that eventful night, Septimius had with- 
drawn to his study, when there was a low tap heard at 
the door, and, opening it, Sybil Dacy stood before him. 
It seemed as if there had been a previous arrangement 

X N 

/ 



210 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

between them; for Septimius evinced no surprise, only 
took her hand, and drew her in. 

" How cold your hand is ! " he exclaimed. " Nothing 
is so cold, except it be the potent medicine. It makes 
me shiver." 

" Never mind that," said Sybil. " You look frightened 
at me." 

" Do I ? " said Septimius. " No, not that ; but this 
is such a crisis ; and methinks it is not yourself. Your 
eyes glare on me strangely." 

" Ah, yes ; and you are not frightened at me ? Well, 
I will try not to be frightened at myself. Time was, 
however, when I should have been." 

She looked round at Septimius's study, with its few 
old books, its implements of science, crucibles, retorts, 
and electrical machines ; all these she noticed little ; but 
on the table drawn before the fire, there was something 
that attracted her attention ; it was a vase that seemed 
of crystal, made in that old fashion in which the Vene- 
tians made their glasses, — a most pure kind of glass, 
with a long stalk, within which was a curved elaboration 
of fancy-work, wreathed and twisted. This old glass was 
an heirloom of the Eeltons, a relic that had come down 
with many traditions, bringing its frail fabric safely 
through all the perils of time, that had shattered empires ; 
and, if space sufficed, I could tell many stories of this 
curious vase, which was said, in its time, to have been 
the instrument both of the Devil's sacrament in the for- 
est, and of the Christian in the village meeting-house. 
But, at any rate, it had been a part of the choice house- 
hold gear of one of Septimius's ancestors, and was en- 
graved with his arms, artistically done. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 211 

" Is that the drink of immortality ? " said Sybil. 

"Yes, Sybil," said Septimius, "Do but touch the 
goblet ; see how cold it is." 

She put her slender, pallid fingers on the side of the 
goblet, and shuddered, just as Septimius did when he 
touched her hand. 

" Why should it be so cold ? " said she, looking at 
Septimius. 

" Nay, I know not, unless because endless life goes 
round the circle and meets deatli, and is just the same 
with it. Sybil, it is a fearful thing that 1 have accom- 
plished ! Do you not feel it so ? What if this shiver 
should last us through eternity ? " 

" Have you pursued this object so long," said Sybil, 
" to have these fears respecting it now ? In that case, 
methinks I could be bold enough to drink it alone, and 
look down upon you, as I did so, smihng at your fear to 
take the life offered you." 

" I do not fear," said Septimius ; " but yet I acknowl- 
edge there is a strange, powerful abhorrence in me 
towards this draught, which I know not how to account 
for, except as the reaction, the revulsion of feeling conse- 
quent upon its being too long overstrained in one direc- 
tion. I cannot help it. The meannesses, the littlenesses, 
the perplexities, the general irksomeness of life, weigh 
upon me strangely. Thou didst refuse to drink with me. 
That being the case, methinks I could break the jewelled 
goblet now, untasted, and choose the grave as the wiser 
part." 

"The beautiful goblet! What a pity to break it! " 
said Sybil, with her characteristic malign and myste- 



212 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

rious smile. " You cannot find it in your heart to do 
it." 

" I could, — I can. So thou wilt not drink with 



me 



" Do you know what you ask ? " said Sybil. " I am 
a being that sprung up, Uke this flower, out of a grave ; 
or, at least, I took root in a grave, and, growing there, 
have twined about your life, until you cannot possibly 
escape from me. Ah, Septimius ! you know me not. 
You know not what is in my heart towards you. Do 
you remember this broken miniature ? would you wish to 
see the features that were destroyed when that bullet 
passed ? Then look at mine ! " 

" Sybil ! what do you tell me ? Was it you — were 
they your features — which that young soldier kissed as 
he lay dying ?. " 

"They were," said Sybil. "I loved him, and gave 
hira that miniature, and the face they represented. I 
had given him all, and you slew him." 

" Then you hate me," whispered Septimius. 

" Do you call it hatred ? " asked Sybil, smihng. 
" Have I not aided you, thought with you, encouraged 
you, heard all your wild ravings when you dared to tell 
no one else ? kept up your hopes ; suggested ; helped 
you with my legendary lore to useful hints ; helped you, 
also, in other ways, which you do not suspect ? And 
now you ask me if I hate you. Does this look like 
it ? " 

" No," said Septimius. " And yet, since first I knew 
you, there has been something whispering me of harm, 
as if I sat near some mischief. There is in me the wild. 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 213 

natural blood of the Indian, the instinctive, the animal 
nature, which has ways of warning that civilized life 
polishes away and cuts out ; and so, Sybil, never did I 
approach you, but there were reluctances, drawmgs back, 
and, at the same time, a strong impulse to come closest 
to you ; and to that I yielded. But why, then, knowing 
that in this grave lay the man you loved, laid there by 
my hand, — why did you aid me in an object which you 
must have seen was the breath of my life ? " 

" Ah, my friend, — my enemy, if you will have it so, 
— are you yet to learn that the wish of a man's inmost 
heart is oftenest that by which he is ruined and made 
miserable? But listen to me, Septimius. No matter 
for my earlier life ; there is no reason why I should tell 
you the story, and confess to you its weakness, its shame. 
It may be, I had more cause to hate the tenant of that 
grave, than to hate you who unconsciously avenged my 
cause ; nevertheless, I came here in hatred, and desire of 
revenge, meaning to lie in wait, and turn your dearest 
desire against you, to eat into your life, and distil poison 
into it, I sitting on this grave, and drawing fresh hatred 
from it; and at last, in the hour of your triumph, I 
meant to make the triumph mine." 

"Is this still so?" asked Septimius, with pale lips; 
" or did your fell purpose change ? " 

" Septimius, I am weak, — a weak, weak girl, — only 
a girl, Septimius ; only eighteen yet," exclaimed Sybil. 
"It is young, is it not? I might be forgiven much. 
You know not how bitter my purpose was to you. But 
look, Septimius, — could it be worse than this ? Hush, 
be still ! Do not stir ! " 



214 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

She lifted the beautiful goblet from the table, put it to 
her lips, and drank a deep draught from it ; then, smiling 
mockingly, she held it towards him. 

" See ; I have made myself immortal before you. Will 
you drink ? " 

He eagerly held out his hand to receive the goblet, but 
Sybil, holding it beyond his reach a moment, deliberately 
let it fall upon the hearth, where it shivered into frag- 
ments, and the bright, cold water of immortality was all 
spilt, shedding its strange fragrance around. 

" Sybil, what have you done ? " cried Septimius in rage 
and horror. 

" Be quiet ! See what sort of immortality I win by it, 
— then, if you like, distil your drink of eternity again, 
and quaff it." 

" It is too late, Sybil ; it was a happiness that may 
never come again in a lifetime, I shall perish as a dog 
does. It is too late ! " 

" Septimius," said Sybil, who looked strangely beauti- 
ful, as if the drink, giving her immortal life, had likewise 
the potency to give immortal beauty answering to it. 
''Listen to me. You have not learned all the secrets 
that lay in those old legends, about which we have talked 
so much. There were two recipes, discovered or learned 
by the art of the studious old Gaspar Felton. One was 
said to be that secret of immortal life which so many old 
sages sought for, and which some were said to have 
found; though, if that were the case, it is strange some 
of them have not lived till our day. Its essence lay in 
a certain rare flower, which, mingled properly with other 
ingredients of great potency in themselves, though still 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 215 

lacking the crowning virtue till the flower was supplied, 
produced the drink of immortality." 

" Yes, and I had the flower, which I found in a grave," 
said Septimius, " and distilled the drink which you have 
spilt." 

" You had a flower or what you called a flower," said 
the girl. " But, Septimius, there was yet another drink, 
in which the same potent ingredients were used ; all but 
the last. In this, instead of the beautiful flower, was 
mingled the semblance of a flower, but really a baneful 
growth out of a grave. This I sowed there, and it con- 
verted the drink into a poison, famous in old science, — 
a poison which the Borgias used, and Mary de Medicis, — 
and which has brought to death many a famous person, 
when it was desirable to his enemies. This is the drink 
I helped you to distil. It brings on death with pleasant 
and delightful thrills of the nerves. Septimius, Sep- 
timius, it is worth while to die, to be so blest, so exhil- 
arated as I am now." 

" Good God, Sybil, is this possible ? " 

"Even so, Septimius. I was helped by that old 
physician. Doctor Portsoaken, who, with some private 
purpose of his own, taught me what to do ; for he was 
skilled in all the mysteries of those old physicians, and 
knew that their poisons at least were ef&cacious, what- 
ever their drinks of immortality might be. But the end 
has not turned out as I meant. A girl's fancy is so 
shifting, Septimius. I thought I loved that youth in the 
grave yonder ; but it was you I loved, — and I am 
dying. Forgive me for my evil purposes, for I am 
dying." 



216 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

"Why hast thou spilt the drink?" said Septimius, 
bending his dark brows upon her, and frowning over 
her. " We might have died together." 

"No, live, Septimius," said the girl, whose face ap- 
peared to grow bright and joyous, as if the drink of 
death exhilarated her like an intoxicating fluid. "I 
would not let you have it, not one drop. But to think," 
and here she laughed, " what a penance, — what months 
of wearisome labor thou hast had, — and what thoughts, 
what dreams, and how I laughed in my sleeve at them 
all the time ! Ha, ha, ha ! Then thou didst plan out 
future ages, and talk poetry and prose to me. Did I 
not take it very demurely, and answer thee in the same 
style ? and so thou didst love me, and kindly didst wish 
to take me with thee in thy immortality. Septimius, 
I should have liked it well ! Yes, latterly, only, I knew 
how the case stood. O, how I surrounded the6 with 
dreams, and instead of giving thee immortal life, so 
kneaded up the little life allotted thee with drnams and 
vaporing stuff, that thou didst not really live awen that. 
Ah, it was a pleasant pastime, and pleasant is now the 
end of it. Kiss me, thou poor Septimius, one kiss ! " 

[Ske gives the ridiculous aspect to his scheme, in an 
airy way?^ 

But as Septimius, who seemed stunned, instinctively 
bent forward to obey her, she drew back. " No, there 
shall be no kiss ! There may a little poison linger on 
my lips. Farewell! Dost thou mean still to seek for 
thy liquor of immortality ? — ah, ah ! It was a good 
jest. We will laugh at it when we meet in the other 
world." 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 217 

And here poor Sybil Dacy's laugh grew fainter, and 
dying away, she seemed to die with it ; for there she was, 
with that mirthful, half-malign expression still on her 
face, but motionless ; so that however long Septimius's 
life was likely to be, whether a few years or many cen- 
turies, he would still have her image in his memory so. 
And here she lay among his broken hopes, now shattered 
as completely as the goblet which held his draught, and 
as incapable of being formed again. 

The next day, as Septimius did not appear, there was 
research for him on the part of Doctor Portsoaken. His 
room was found empty, the bed untouched. Then they 
sought him on his favorite hill-top ; but neither was he 
found there, although something was found that added 
to the wonder and alarm of his disappearance. It was 
the cold form of Sybil Dacy, which was extended on 
the hillock so often mentioned, with her arms thrown 
over it ; but, looking in the dead face, the beholders 
were astonished to see a certain mahgn and mirthful ex- 
pression, as if some airy part had been played out, — 
some surprise, some practical joke of a peculiarly airy 
kind had burst with fairy shoots of fire among the com- 
pany. 

" Ah, she is dead ! Poor Sybil Dacy ! " exclaimed 
Doctor Portsoaken. " Her scheme, then, has turned 
out amiss." 

This exclamation seemed to imply some knowledge of 

the mystery; and it so impressed the auditors, among 

whom was Robert Hagburn, that they thought it not 

inexpedient to have an investigation ^ so the learned 

10 



218 SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 

doctor -was not uncivilly taken into custody and exam- 
ined. Several interesting particulars, some of which 
throw a certain degree of light on our narrative, were 
discovered. For instance, that Sybil Dacy, who was a 
niece of the doctor, had been beguiled from her home 
and led over the sea by Cyril Norton, and that the 
doctor, arriving in Boston with another regiment, had 
found her there, after her lover's death. Here there 
was some discrepancy or darkness in tlie doctor's narra- 
tive. He appeared to have consented to, or instigated 
(for it was not quite evident how far his concurrence had 
gone) this poor girl's scheme of going and brooding over 
her lover's grave, and living in close contiguity with the 
mau who had slain him. The doctor had not much to 
say for himself on this point ; but there was found rea- 
son to believe that he was acting in the interest of some 
English claimant of a great estate that was left without 
an apparent heir by the death of Cyril Norton, and there 
was even a suspicion that he, with his fantastic science 
and antiquated empiricism, had been at the bottom of 
the scheme of poisoning, which was so strangely inter- 
twined with Septimius's notion, in which he went so 
nearly crazed, of a drink of immortality. It was ob- 
servable, however, that the doctor — such a humbug in 
scientific matters, that he had perhaps bewildered him- 
self — seemed to have a sort of faith in the efficacy of 
the recipe which had so strangely come to light, provided 
the true flower could be discovered ; but that flower, 
according to Doctor Portsoaken, had not been seen on 
earth for many centuries, and was banished probably 
forever. The flower, or fungus, which Septimius had 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 219 

mistaken for it, was a sort of earthly or devilish coun- 
terpart of it, and was greatly in request among the 
old poisoners for its admirable uses in their art. In 
fine, no tangible evidence being found against the 
worthy doctor, he was permitted to depart, and disap- 
peared from the neighborhood, to the scandal of many 
people, unhanged; leaving behind him few available ef- 
fects beyond the web and empty skin of an enormous 
spider. 

As to Septimius, he returned no more to his cottage 
by the wayside, and none undertook to tell what had be- 
come of him ; crushed and annihilated, as it were, by the 
failure of his magnificent and most absurd dreams. Ru- 
mors there have been, however, at various times, that 
there had appeared an American claimant, who had made 
out his right to the great estate of Smithell's Hall, and 
had dwelt there, and left posterity, and that in the subse- 
quent generation an ancient baronial title had been re- 
vived in favor of the son and heir of the American. 
Whether this was our Septimius, I cannot tell; but I 
should be rather sorry to believe that after such splen- 
did schemes as he had entertained, he should have been 
content to settle down into the fat substance and reality 
of English life, and die in his due time, and be buried 
like any other man. 

A few years ago, while in England, I visited Smith- 
ell's Hall, and was entertained there, not knowing at the 
time that I could claim its owner as my countryman by 
descent ; though, as I now remember, I was struck by 
the thin, sallow, American cast of his face, and the lithe 
slenderuess of his figure, and seem now (but this may be 



220 



SEPTIMIUS FELTON. 



my fancy) to recollect a certain Indian glitter of the eye, 
and cast of feature. 

As for the Bloody Footstep, I saw it with my own 
eyes, and will venture to suggest that it was a mere nat- 
ural reddish stain in the stone, converted by superstition 
into a Bloody Footstep. 




j.JN 'g9 1899 






LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 


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